Reviews for Better to Wish

Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
Abby's story begins in 1930, when she is eight years old and a traveling fair visits her village in Maine. While coping with her strict father's intolerance and her gentle mother's depression, she grows up chapter by episodic chapter, buying her sister a tea set for Christmas, losing her closest childhood friend, and feeling angry but helpless when her father institutionalizes her five-year-old brother, who has developmental disabilities. Eventually, Abby turns down the suitor her father insists that she marry and moves to New York City alone. With period attitudes woven seamlessly into the narrative, this historical novel reflects social norms during Abby's life. The individual scenes are vividly written and the overall story is engaging, but the 23-year time frame may limit its audience. However, in the Family Tree series, Martin plans to tell the stories of four girls from succeeding generations. Readers won over by Abby will happily look for her return as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #4
The typical historical fiction set during the Great Depression is a story of financial hardship -- but it's not lack of money that's the issue here, in this first of what will be four novels about succeeding generations of women. For eight-year-old Abby and her family, the decade of the 1930s begins with a rise in family fortunes and a move into town (from a modest cottage by the sea in tiny Lewisport, Maine, to a fancy house in a fashionable neighborhood). In a set of short vignettes, one or two per year, we follow Abby through her childhood to 1940 when, at eighteen, she makes the decision to leave home (an epilogue shows her in New York City, working at becoming a writer). As we receive these bulletins, we start to fill in the various strands of the story: an abusive, bigoted, controlling father; a mother prone to depression after a series of miscarriages; the accidental death of a best friend; the family tension caused by a disabled baby brother; issues of class; the poor boyfriend, the rich boyfriend, and the spare boyfriend. The approach here is plain, with lots of unapologetic telling, but the story has that addictive quality of the multigenerational family saga. Who has secrets, and who knows them? What alliances are formed? Who inherited what qualities? Who escaped? Who got lured back? What were the major consequences of minor actions? We're hooked. Bring on the next book, about Abby's daughter Dana, without delay. sarah ellis

Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
Martin delivers the first novel of a planned quartet, set to span four generations of daughters. In a brief prologue, 100-year-old Abby muses about time's swift passage and the kaleidoscopic aspect of memories--and secrets-- recalled from the past. Readers meet Abby Nichols at age 8 in 1930. She's big sister to Rose, good friend to Sarah and Orrin, and she's already expert at navigating the moods of her domineering father, Luther, and emotionally fragile mother, Nell. Ensuing chapters cover 15 years. Luther builds a prosperous business, moving the family from their small Maine seaside cottage to a fancy house in a larger town. Servants, store-bought dresses and Zander, the appealing boy next door don't dampen Abby's longing for the authentic friendships of life before. Her academic and social successes are pummeled by tragedy: Beloved Sarah drowns in an icy pond, and Nell breaks after Luther secretly institutionalizes their developmentally disabled 5-year-old son. While outwardly obeisant to her bigoted father--who cruelly forbids friendships, jobs and college--Abby builds a capacity for compassion that sustains her siblings. Eventually--and critically--she learns to use it to nurture herself. In a 1945 epilogue, Abby's a working girl in New York City--and Zander's on her doorstep. Some threads--whither Orrin?--are left dangling. But the deftly rendered theme of personal resilience, laced with romance and Americana, will earn this a deservedly wide audience. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 November/December
Ann Martin allows the reader to take a journey and follow four generations of the same family. This first title in the Family Tree series begins with eight-year-old Abby. The reader explores life in the 1930s for this young girl and her family over the course of 23 years. Characters include a depressed mother, a father with prejudices against anyone not born in the United States, and a little brother with Down Syndrome. To balance difficult situations, the reader gets a dose of highs in Abby's life such as going to a carnival, school, dances, playing at the beach, little sisters, etc. Martin captivates readers as they follow Abby's story through a large chunk of her early life. Some of the events may be a little mature for a younger reader, but all readers will finish the book wanting to know what happens to Abby. Maureen Mooney, Library Media Specialist, Caroline St. Elementary School, Saratoga Springs, New York. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #1

Martin (Ten Rules for Living with My Sister) paints an authentic picture of white middle-class life during the 1930s in this first installment of the Family Tree series, tracing four generations of American girls. Growing up in Maine, eight-year-old Abby Nichols is the oldest daughter of an ambitious carpenter eager to realize the American Dream. But his prejudices are strong, too: he won't let Abby associate with her Irish Catholic neighbor, Orrin, among others. As Abby's father gains success, she enjoys more privileges, including a big new house in the city, but the family's newfound prosperity doesn't ease her outrage over her father's mistreatment of the less fortunate, including Abby's mentally impaired baby brother. Besides addressing the subject of bigotry, Martin underscores the powerlessness of wives and children at the time, revealing the positive and negative sides of tight family bonds. Abby grows into a resilient young woman (the novel spans more than 10 years), willing to speaks her mind and assert her independence. Martin incorporates universal themes into this period piece, and her poignant writing is sure to satisfy fans. Ages 8-12. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 3-7--In a small town in 1930s Maine, Abby Nichols is happy in her small bungalow by the sea. Life is stable, but not without challenges; her father has a volatile temper and is biased against people who are different and her mother experiences bouts with sadness and sees ghosts from the past. However, Abby finds solace and pleasure in her longtime friendships with Orrin and Sarah. Despite the changing times and the onset of the Great Depression, the family furniture business begins to boom and her father proudly moves them to a big house in a bigger town, complete with hired help. Regretfully saying goodbye to the house and friends she's so fond of is only the beginning of a life of love and loss, triumph and struggle for Abby. This first in a series is sure to be a hit with children, especially fans of historical fiction. The descriptive writing transports them right back to this fascinating period in time when families grappled with economic challenges, civil-rights injustices, and everyday concerns. Martin writes with respect for her readers, piquing their interest in history and tackling real-life issues head-on, but with grace. The series will continue with three more books following the lives of Abby's daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.--Amy Shepherd, St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

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