After reading the first part of this sequel, The Spruce Gum Box, my only regret was that I had arrived at the last page. I had fallen in love with the book, the characters, and the marvelous descriptions of the Maine landscape in the early 1800's. So, I was very happy when I received the sequel.
Granite Hearts is a perfect title for this historical novel. It brings to mind two major themes: life in Maine in the early 1800’s was often as hard and rough as granite and the way to soften the harsh existence was through the human heart, the seat of love and compassion.
We meet many of the familiar characters from The Spruce Gum Box again: Ben and his friends from childhood, Hettie, his wife and their new baby, JJ. Uncle Jacob, the Micmac sagomore, Frank, Hanna and others from the Wabanaki tribes. The focus of the novel, however, is on Ben’s childhood friend, Sean, who is part Irish and part Micmac Indian, and on Gert, his wife.
After the wedding, Sean and Gert move away from their native Smytheville on the Aroostook in the northern Maine wilderness. Hoping to escape some of the prejudices of the white settlers toward “half-breeds” and “savages,” Sean wants to live and work somewhere where nobody knows them and so the young couple settles near Sean’s brother, Joseph, in a little town called Prospect near Bangor, Maine. Sean and Gert work hard to carve a life for themselves and their growing family of four boys. The harsh life and the prejudices, however, follow them across the state. Accidents, the danger of alcohol, and the threat of the upcoming civil war threaten to destroy their dreams of a peaceful and prosperous life. However, the support of close friends and, above all, their family members back home in Smytheville help them overcome and keep the love alive. And not all of life is hard; there is plenty to be thankful for: the joy of children, the gorgeous landscape, and the celebrations with wonderful food and the company of loved ones.
As in the first part, the author uses her skill in language to paint a loving picture of the characters and the environment they live in. By means of vivid descriptions, she lets us take part in their lives, enjoy their successes and mourn their losses. We enjoy their adventures, taste the delicious homemade food, see the colors and smell the scents of nature. A lot of research must have gone into this book and the historical events are seamlessly woven into this heart-warming story of love and family. A truly wonderful work of literature!