Lily’s Story, by Don Gutteridge, shows the power of teaching history through the eyes of one woman.
Lily, born in the backwoods of Lambton County, Ontario, enters the world in 1840. Frontier living isn’t for the weak. But life has much more in store for Lily. During her long lifetime she witnesses the rise of railroad rivalries, the discovery of oil at Petrolia, the Prince of Wales’ grand tour in 1860, the Underground Railroad sending liberated slaves to Canada, the Riel Rebellions, the birth of a nation, World War I, and the influenza pandemic. Over the decades, she marries more than once, has children, and has to contend with love, loss, and heartache. Through it all, Lily remains a strong woman who isn’t afraid to take on new challenges. She keeps on adapting to the ever-changing world and never stops learning from her experiences and those around her.
Although Lily is a fictionalized character, Gutteridge has done extensive research, which allowed him to create a believable character and to bring the time period to life. His bibliography is impressive and the writing is testament to his mastery of the historical events, the people, and customs described over the decades.
This book will appeal to readers who love history that include big world events, but who also enjoy the little mostly unknown aspects, such as the founding of the village of Point Edward. It’s the inclusion of Lily’s everyday life that really leaves a mark. Life is never easy, but Lily has lived through more than her fair share. The ups and downs in this book will tug on your heartstrings. At times the reader will wonder how much can the poor woman survive. But Lily finds a way to dig deep to keep going. Her strength, bravery, wisdom, and heart help her persevere.
During her journey, she meets many memorable characters who provide much humor. And they teach not only Lily, but the reader, the value of friends. We can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends and oftentimes they are the ones we count on the most when going through difficult times.
The crisp prose strips away sentimentality and focuses on the matter at hand: telling Lily’s story. Gutteridge, who is also a poet, has a way with words:
A butterfly, yellow as honey, was tilting the breeze on one wing, then the other, before a thistle rescued it. When Lil stretched out a finger, it gratefully accepted the offer. She could feel the wind’s ripple flow down the golden sails of its wings, shudder through its stiff rigging and hum against her fingertips.
Lily’s Story is for historical fiction fans who aren’t afraid of a novel that encompasses decades of history, and by a large page count. The novel is an epic tour de force that will captivate readers from the beginning to end. It whisks you off the couch and into one woman’s life and when you reach the final page it’ll feel like you’ve known and admired the plucky woman all your life.
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