I was away for a few days last week and did what I always do in Vermont: hike a little and read and relax a lot. There are several books in my sister’s library I re-read once a year: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.
This is the story of a little orphan girl around 1900 who has to leave the home of her aunt in an unspecified mid-western city and move to near Putney, Vermont. She learns self-sufficiency, kindness and, most of all, what it takes to be happy. My sister’s hardback is so old, it was published when Dorothy Canfield has not yet added the Fisher. It was published in 1917. The book is like the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the way in which they talk about how to do things like churn butter and make applesauce. And of course, it is about Vermont.
Gone-Away Lake is also a children’s book. First published in 1957, it tells the story of young, almost teens who discover an abandoned resort on a lake that became a swamp after a dam was built. They discover a brother and sister fallen on hard times who moved back to where they had once spent summers. They have adventures and keep the discovery a secret as long as they can from their parents. It is a book about accepting differences couched in a summer vacation story. There is a sequal, Return to Gone-Away in which one of the abandoned houses is purchased and restored by one of the families.
Elizabeth Enright won a Newberry Honor award for Gone-Away Lake.
My other favorite thing to do is to poke around a wonderful used bookstore in Brattleboro, Brattleboro Books. (They, like all bookstores, need a little press.) This year the treasure I unearthed by Dorothy Gilman’s The Tightrope Walker. I had not thought about it or read it in many years, but the minute I spotted the book, it all came back to me. It is the story of a young woman who solves a mystery and discovers herself. (Is there a theme to these books?)
The heroine finds a note in a hurdy-gurdy and follows a trail to uncover a the secret of the note writer’s murder. It is an old-fashioned follow the clues where ever they lead mystery with some romance thrown in. Gilman wrote the tightrope walker in 1979 in between writing her better known Mrs. Pollifax spy stories.
So now you know what I read on my summer vacation.