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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
Lotta Crabtree was an American actress, entertainer, and comedian. She was also a philanthropist. Born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree in New York to English parents, she was raised in the gold mining hills outside San Francisco. This information is provided as a background story for the main character, Walter Cain, and his life from boyhood to adulthood. It begins around the mid-19th century where young Walter and his friend Frank are raised by their fathers, Oliver and Cyrus, after the California Gold Rush of 1848. Walter’s pa, Oliver Cain, raised Walter, taking the child from New York to California to try to strike it rich mining gold. The two boys meet and befriend Lotta as a young girl, as she dances for the miners in the camps and is paid in bags of gold dust. Later, tragedy causes Walter and Frank to leave the camps and travel to the San Francisco area. They are taken in by two young female prostitutes who provide the boys with a temporary place to stay. One of the prostitutes, named Tabby, shows Walter more than friendship and Frank finds romance with her friend, Ru.
Living in a Star’s Light (A Novel based on the life of Miss Lotta Crabtree) by Steve Lindahl is a good mix of historical fiction and biography. Lindahl finds creative ways to include Miss Lotta Crabtree in the story of Walter and Tabby. Circumstances cause the couple to become contracted workers for the Crabtree family. Walter winds up as a dance partner for Lotta as well as an all-around handyman for the Crabtree property outside of San Francisco. Walter and Tabby grow closer, eventually, marry and remain friends with Lotta. Their love for each other and their friendship with Lotta Crabtree enhances the book overall. Living in a Star’s Light is worth reading for the life of this extraordinary actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a good story of her fictitious friends, Walter and Tabby. An entertaining story that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and biographies.