A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

So, I realized this past weekend that the month was half over and I’d read like, one, classic book the whole month. I was meant to be reading ONLY classics this month! But then I still had The Stand going, which I am totally going to count by the way, and I promised Andi I’d read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, which has been all kinds of wicked fun, but still. I want to read more classics for pete’s sake. So, I took my trusty Nook and randomly picked one out. And I picked A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter.

Why? I don’t know…. The cover is pretty.

A Girl of the Limberlost is about a girl. Ha! I kid you not! This girl lives in… guess what? The LIMBERLOST. I know, right? The title is soooo specific. This girl though. She’s like the most perfect creature ever created. At the start, she’s like maybe 14. This is 1909, so she’s wearing gingham and she’s walking 3 miles in the snow. Well, not really the snow, but you get my meaning I hope. She’s actually walking through the swamp. You see, the Limberlost is a swamp in Indiana . And she lives in the middle of it. So she’s walking to through the swamp to the city. She’s the typical backwoods, tomboyish girl. She’s made fun of for her clothes. She’s without lunch because she was so embarrassed to take the lunch pail her mother sent with her, that she ditched it, and her food, along the way. Well, she hid her food, but some drifter saw her and stole it. She doesn’t know where to go when she gets to the high school. She doesn’t know she has to buy her books. She doesn’t know she has to pay tuition. She doesn’t know ANYTHING. She doesn’t know what to wear, how to talk, but by golly she knows math! And natural science!

Now, one would think her parents would have helped her out a bit here, right? You’d be wrong! LOL on you! No, her dad died in the swamp, with her mama watching. Her mama couldn’t help him because she had JUST WENT INTO LABOR. With the girl! Hey, let’s name this girl, shall we? Her name is ELNORA. Really. Elnora. Anyhoo, since her mama lost her daddy because she went into labor, her mama hates this girl. Can barely stand the sight of her. So yes, mama sent Elnora off to school fully aware of these things, but instead of helping her, she thought it would teach her a lesson. In the My Mama Can’t Stand Me School of Hard Knocks.

Despite spending the last 14 years with a mother who can’t lift a finger to protect her from the evils of the big city girls, Elnora is a smart, kind, wise-beyond-her years, plucky kid. She has spent her life wandering the swamp and knows all about it. She knows the plants, the moths, the butterflies, the insects, everything. She’s a swamp genius. She knows her mother hates her, and why, and just lifts her chin and goes on with life. Her neighbors, the Sinton’s, childless thanks to disease, love and dote on her. They do all they can to help, but Elnora (and her beastly, neglectful mother) are Proud. Elnora needs things to go to school and Elnora will get them! How? You’ll have to read the book SILLY. I’m not going to tell you.

You may think my flippancy means I didn’t like this book. You would be WRONG my friend! Girl of the Limberlost has its schizophrenic tendency’s, yes. There were several WTF! moments. The transitions are moodier than a June bug in a soda bottle. However, Elnora is really the angel I suggest and it doesn’t…feel…forced, I guess. I never felt… preached at. She is very wise beyond her years, which is actually completely understandable. Her mother….Wow, she is a piece of work. Here she is talking about how she knew about school:

“If any doubts are troubling you on that subject, sure I knew it! She was so anxious to try the world, I thought I’d just let her take a few knocks and see how she liked them.”

“As if she’d ever taken anything but knocks all her life!” cried Wesley Sinton. “Kate Comstock, you are a heartless, selfish woman. You’ve never shown Elnora any real love in her life. If ever she finds out that think you’ll lose her, and it will serve you right.”

“She knows it now,” said Mrs. Comstock icily. “and she’ll be home to-night just as usual.”

Do they ever come to understand each other? I’m not going to tell you that either! Read the book! One thing I will say in the mother’s favor, she does teach Elnora some important things. AND my most favorite part is how they live off the land. More uncommon now, but making a comeback, many people lived off their land back in these times. The Comstock’s had their own garden, their own animals, their own butter, etc, etc, and they did it all by themselves. Plus, they knew their land. Elnora is definitely someone you would say “knows the land like the back of her hand.” Anyway, just had to mention that.

So. Then the second half of the book comes and it becomes a romance! This poor girl hooks up with a rich guy name Philip Ammon! There are lots of lovely-dovey comments on her innocent beauty, her shining hair, her shining eyes (she’s not long on adjectives, is Stratton Porter), her delightful intelligence, and Philip’s engagement. Yes! He is already engaged! To a socialite! Which whom he has nothing in common! It’s delicious I tell you. Delicious! Do they get together? Who gets their heart broken? Read it and find out!

More yummy prose:

And remember this: What you are lies with you. If you are lazy, and accept your lot, you may live in it. If you are willing to work, you can write your name anywhere you choose, among the only ones who life beyond the grave in this world, the people who write books that help, make exquisite music, carve statues, paint pictures, and work for others. Never mind the calico dress, and the coarse shoes. Work at your books, and before long you will hear yesterday’s tormentors boasting that they were once classmates of yours. ‘I could a tale unfold’–!”

Wish more people thought that way….

I have learned that I am a common man. I admire beauty and beautiful clothing quite as much as I ever did; but, first, I want an understanding, deep as the lowest recess of my soul, with the woman I marry. I want to work for you, to plan for you, to build you a home with every comfort, to give you all good things I can, to shield you from every evil. I want to interpose my body between yours and fire, flood, or famine. I want to give you everything….


I am so glad I picked A Girl of the Limberlost. I can’t wait to read more Stratton Porter, especially when I’m feeling a little down, jaded, and pessimistic. She’s a great cure for that.

I got this ebook for free from the kick ass GirleBooks!

10 thoughts on “A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

  1. I always feel so stupid when someone talks about a classic, and I've never even heard of it before…so yeah, I am currently feeling stupid. 😛 This was such a fun review, Heather! Glad you enjoyed the book so much. 😀

    1. You silly woman! You're not stupid! I hadn't heard of her until I found this book at GirleBooks. I'm 100% sure you would love it! So much nature. It's just gorgeous. <DIV style=”FONT-FAMILY: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; FONT-SIZE: 12pt”> <DIV style=”FONT-FAMILY: times new roman, new york, times, serif; FONT-SIZE: 12pt”> <DIV dir=ltr> <DIV style=”BORDER-BOTTOM: #ccc 1px solid; BORDER-LEFT: #ccc 1px solid; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; LINE-HEIGHT: 0; MARGIN: 5px 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; HEIGHT: 0px; FONT-SIZE: 0px; BORDER-TOP: #ccc 1px solid; BORDER-RIGHT: #ccc 1px solid; PADDING-TOP: 0px”></DIV>

  2. I started reading this one and just could NOT get through it. I think the whole drama with her mother really annoyed me, plus Elnora just seemed too perfect for me to spend much time with. I realize perfection is often a trait in female protagonists of the era, but I just couldn't do it!

    Though I wish I had as that proposal (is it a proposal?) at the end is glorious! Of COURSE she ends up with a handsome, rich man who just wants to protect her 😉

  3. I read this book multiple times when I was a tweenager. I've almost been afraid to read it again because my memory of it is so clouded with nostalgia. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  4. This is one of the few books set in my home state, Indiana, and I haven't read it yet! I really need to change that.

  5. I read this many years ago, when I was growing up, and absolutely loved it. I don't know how it would stand up to an adult re-read. I'm glad you discovered and enjoyed it!

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