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A Girl of the Limberlost

by Gene Stratton-Porter
479 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

An intriguing, interesting story set in the Limberlost Swamp of the state of Indiana.

Plot

Elnora Comstock's father drowned in the Limberlost Swamp the night she was born, and her mother holds her a grudge: if Mrs. Comstock had not been in labor at the time, she would have been able to save her husband. Sixteen years have passed and Elnora is a young adult, intent on going to the town high school and earning a degree; unfortunately, that costs money, which Mrs. Comstock is reluctant to supply. So Elnora sets herself to earning the money by collecting and selling moths, butterflies, and cocoons from the Limberlost in order to prove to her mother than she, Elnora, can earn her own way to college.

"A Girl of the Limberlost" takes Elnora from the age of sixteen on through high school and into her twenties, telling the story of her life as a young woman. It is one part simply general fiction, one part historical fiction, one part beautifully woven in science, and a fourth part romance.

Morality

From her own troubles at home, Elnora learns to be sensitive and kind; early in the story she gives up a very fine lunch to three hungry children, and later she is even generous to her rival. She is willing to stick by her morals even when it pains her to do so, which is a lesson that never loses its value.

Mrs. Comstock struggles with forgiveness and at one point shows a very cruel spirit toward another woman, but quickly repents and takes back what she previously said. Though she is often unkind to Elnora, her friends encourage her to be long-suffering; she doesn't always manage to do it, but she does try.

Spiritual Content

Mrs. Comstock takes the view that God is too busy with "big things" to notice people's individual sins; incongruously enough, however, she later watches a moth leaving its cocoon and says that anyone who accepts the newfangled idea of Evolution had only to look at that sight to see the hand of God in it.

Elnora prays to God several times and He is regularly mentioned. There is also a funeral at one point.

Violence

There are frequent mentions of how Robert Comstock drowned in the swamp. Billy, one of the children to whom Elnora gives her lunch, was frequently beaten before his father died and at one point we see him chased by a dog; he later accidentally yanks the tail feathers off a turkey while attempting to ride the creature, and ties several kittens together by their tails - resulting in a great storm of claws and fur.

Mrs. Comstock smashes a moth, thinking it a poisonous creature; later, while out in the Limberlost at night, she threatens a man with her gun.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A couple of the pigs belonging to the Comstock's neighbors get drunk on grape juice, and Billy's father is a habitual drinker.

Sexual Content

A man climbs a tree and looks in Elnora's bedroom window in the evening, seeing her studying at her desk. A married man is said to have been seeing another woman, but that happened before the actual story begins. Moths release a spray that attracts mates. There is romance in the latter half of the book, but nothing untoward.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Billy has a problem with saying bad words. He occasionally lets slip a "dam," or a "blasted," or something of the sort, though Elnora tells him it is wrong and he is later punished for it by having privileges taken away. There are other exclamations like "Landy!", and one character says "Gods!" and "Ye gods."

Conclusion

"A Girl of the Limberlost" is in all ways a very sweet, old fashioned story. Thought it involves the subplot of Elnora's strained relationship with her mother, there is none of the "teenage angst" so frequent in modern literature; the fact that she has taken a great deal of hard knocks during her life is portrayed as rather a blessing, for it teaches Elnora to be wise and loving. Also, this is probably the only story I have ever read that interested me in insects; I enjoyed the descriptions of the wing colors, the flight patterns, and the life cycles of the Limberlost moths, and I could sympathize with Elnora's search for her Imperialis Regalis - the last moth she needs to complete a necessary collection. In addition, the romance was very clean and, though not as 'romantic' as some might want, it was rather true to life and did not involve the girl completely losing her head over the man.

One point in the story that I found especially intriguing was Stratton-Porter's frequent mentions of Freckles and 'the Angel', though she never explains who they are. Their story is contained in the prequel to "A Girl of the Limberlost," simply titled "Freckles."

The story is not action-packed, but if the reader enjoys tales like "Little Women," "Anne of Green Gables," and other coming-of-age books, this is one for them.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

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