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Reviewed by Deborah Stone for Readers' Favorite
Mattie by Betty Willis is a heartwarming and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, hardship, abandonment, and survival. Mattie McAlister, a ten-year-old girl, loses her mother in a tragic accident. Her grief-stricken father begins drinking and ignores the needs of his children. Mattie's two brothers are taken in by the Curbo family, but they don't want a girl. On her own, frightened and hungry, Mattie agrees to work for the Kunkel family to avoid being placed in the notoriously cruel children's home. Mattie is a godsend to the Kunkels and, in time, it is good for Mattie too. With her childhood lost and being able to carry out the responsibilities of an adult, Mattie yearns for a home of her own with children of her own to care for.
At the tender age of twelve, Mattie is hoping to find a boyfriend that will potentially become her husband. What she finds is Jessee. He is much older, deceptive and brutal. In her naivete, Mattie ignores the advice of those who love her and collects her entire savings and runs off with Jessee. The abuse begins almost immediately. Alone with a man who belittles and abuses her, she regrets her decision but resigns herself to the consequences of her decision. Before the age of fifteen, she has one son, is pregnant again, and is fleeing for her life. Escaping the man who has vowed to kill her if she tries to leave with his son is a risk she must take if she has even a small chance of surviving. Can she ever be free of him? Will she live long enough to raise her children?
Betty Willis has written what feels like a classic with a modern edge. Mattie is filled with well defined and masterfully developed characters and situations that hold the reader's interest from the first page to the last. Betty Willis touches on current social topics and flawlessly weaves them into this historical setting. Abandonment, learning disabilities, sexual and emotional abuse, and racial prejudice are all brilliantly blended in this compelling and tender story. Faith is a key issue for Mattie and this element is central to Betty Willis's powerful story. This beautiful story is filled with love and tenderness, hardship and courage, spiritual wondering and maturity...it is full of wonder and excitement and well worth reading. One of the best books I have ever read. I highly recommend this book and this author.