In 1843, three years after her father abandons his failing Vermont farm, 10-year-old Lyddie and her younger brother Charles are hired out as servants, while Mama and the two youngest children go off to live with relatives. After spending a grueling year working in a tavern, Lyddie flees to Lowell, Mass., in hopes of finding a better job that will provide enough income to pay off farm debts and allow the family to be reunited. Life continues to be a struggle after she is employed in a cloth factory, but Lyddie finds refuge from wretched working conditions by burying herself in books. Learning that she cannot return home–the family farm has been sold to Quaker neighbors–the girl is seized by a burning desire to gain independence by attending college.
Readers will sympathize with Lyddie’s hardships and admire her determination to create a better life for herself. Paterson clearly depicts the effects of poverty during the 19th century, focusing on the plight of factory workers enslaved by their dismal jobs. Impeccably researched and expertly crafted, this book is sure to satisfy those interested in America’s industrialization period.