Reviews for Borning Room


Kirkus Reviews 1991 August
From an innovative, highly talented novelist and poet (Joyful Noise, 1989 Newbery Award), a quiet cycle of episodes from the life of Georgina Lott, born on her father's Ohio farm in 1851 and eventually revealed to be narrating from her deathbed in the same little room, 67 years later. Meanwhile, other births and deaths have occurred there in the ``borning room.'' Zeb is brought into the world with the help of an escaping slave whom Georgina has hidden without her parents' knowledge, hoping--at eight--to save them from the dire penalties for harboring a runaway. Grandfather, who loved the maple still visible through the window and who once shook hands with Franklin (whose pithy sayings the family enjoys), dies in peace despite the harassment of a zealous preacher. With an inexperienced doctor and a new drug (chloroform), Mama dies in childbirth, but the child survives--then and later, during a diphtheria epidemic. When she marries, Georgina recalls her mother, planning to ``raise my children to love the words and music and to oppose injustice. I would bring her back to life by becoming her.'' Soon after, she bears a daughter. Memorable characters and valuable glimpses of social history in a beautifully crafted novel. More important, there's much to ponder: the powerful continuity of talents, values, and ideas that can link generations; the real basics, life and death, habitually concealed in contemporary America. Not showy, but deeply rewarding. (Fiction. 11+) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1991 July #2
Borning rooms, common in many early American homes, were located off the kitchen and reserved for births, illnesses and deaths. Here the room serves as a kind of touchstone, a central symbol for the story of Georgina Lott. Fleischman's first-person narrative can best be described as a series of snapshots of a 19th-century life. He fast-forwards through history--from pre-Civil War days and the Underground Railroad through the First World War--as readers see Georgina at her birth, at eight, with her little brother's arrival (and a brief look at the injustices of slavery) and so on, through her own marriage, the birth of her first daughter and, finally, facing her own death. This workmanlike tale is frustratingly brief, flitting from one incident to the next with only scant looks at the historic underpinnings of each episode. Fleischman's prose, while fluid as ever, never catches fire the way it did in his recent Saturnalia . Ages 11-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1991 September
Gr 6-10-- Fleischman's felicity with words is nowhere more evident than in this story of four generations of Ohioans whose most important events--births and deaths--take place in their home's ``borning room.'' Georgina Caroline Lott, who was born there in 1851, tells the story of her family to a portrait painter who has been hired to capture her image toward the end of her life, in 1918, as her family has done for her grandparents before her. She highlights the most telling scenes from her childhood, which include her discovery of a runaway slave, who helps her mother give birth in the absence of the distant midwife; a deathwatch for her beloved grandfather; the loss of her mother during a subsequent childbirth; the nursing of her two brothers, severly ill with diptheria; and her marriage to the local schoolteacher and the birth of their first child. While Georgina summarizes the events of her later life rather quickly, the power of the narrative is never diminished. Less sophisticated readers may experience initial confusion because of the author's technique of using a flashback to begin the story, but by the emotional conclusion, all is made clear. Fleischman successfully tackles many important themes and once again gifts readers with writing lush with similes, metaphors, and allusions, so subtly woven into the mesh of the narrative that they enrich without distracting. A memorable novel, rich and resonant in familial love and the strength of connection and tradition. --Ellen Fader, Westport Pub . Lib . , CT - Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information.

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