by Gene Stratton Porter
It's a really good book, and I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't actually love it. In the first place, I was expecting more nature writing, or at least descriptions of the swamp habitat. There's not much of that. In fact, there wasn't any of it for the first 150 pages. I almost wonder if the book I read was missing some of the original? because a few other reviews I see online mention the first few chapters of the book having wonderful descriptions of nature in the swamp and forest, whereas the first chapter I read was about Elnora going to school... And the parts about moth collecting aren't until the later third of the book.
It's really mostly about relationships and while that is interesting enough to make a good story, the people are a bit too noble and kind in these pages, a bit hard to believe. The turnaround Elnora's mother makes is also hard to credit, so instant and complete. I was also rather dismayed how much importance everyone put on appearances, that Elnora and all those around her were so set on getting her nice clothes to wear so she wouldn't be scorned and laughed at by other kids at school. I think it would have made a much bolder story if Elnora had found acceptance in spite of her old-fashioned, poverty-stricken looks. And it distressed me how much neighbors kept urging Elnora's mother to sell portions of her land for logging or oil drilling, so she could provide for her child. Both mother and child obviously loved the land and didn't want to see it despoiled, yet they couldn't be in accord with each other? And if she so loved the forest, why did she have so few qualms about collecting hundreds of moths and cocoons, especially the rare ones, to sell to collectors? Grated, they kept stating how important it was to educate other folks about wild things, but it seemed a hollow rationale to me.
Am I being too nitpicky? I probably would have adored this book as a younger reader, and I do love the solid message it gives of being honest and forthright, forgiving and true to yourself, kind to those in need, etc. The love story that unfolds near the end of the book is particularly well done. It shows just how true certain people can be, and how spiteful others. How some people are attracted to each other for all the wrong reasons, and how deep love can go when you approach it in the right way (at least, in my opinion). Elnora sure is an admirable character. (Oh, and did I mention she is pretty much a self-taught genius at playing the violin?)
But I do want to read more of this author's work, particularly Freckles, which precedes this story. Its characters and events were alluded to a lot, without enough satisfactory explanation. The author wrote as if she expected her readers already knew half her characters from before, and while I often find rehashing of previous books annoying, here I did want a little more backstory! Maybe I would have appreciated Limberlost a bit more, if I'd read Freckles first?
Bonus material: looking for pictures of the beautiful moths mentioned in the book, I found these images of incredible moth sculptures by artist Michelle Stitzlein
Rating: 3/5 485 pages, 1991
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