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Hearts of Stone    by Kathleen Ernst order for
Hearts of Stone
by Kathleen Ernst
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Pat Elliott

Fifteen-year-old Hannah never understood why her father went off to fight with the Yankees. She never understood why her best friend Ben would no longer speak to her and even threw rocks at her and her family. Hannah's world was hard work on the farm, helping her mother keep body and soul together. Then her mother died.

Neighbors agreed to divide up the children and care for them, but Hannah, Jasper, Mary and Maude slipped away in the night walking to Nashville to stay with Aunt Ellen, their only living relative. Their trek through the Tennessee autumn was hard but Hannah's trial was just beginning. In Nashville, with winter a breath away, she discovers Aunt Emily is dead. Hannah's ingenuity in caring for her family - in a place where work was nonexistent, where the cold ate at your bones, and friends were few and far between - is a story for all ages. Longing for their home in the Cumberland Mountains and having no hope for the future, the four exist in ways modern children would not survive.

I cannot say enough about this book. I could feel the weariness of Hannah with the burden of her family on her shoulders, I worried along with her as Mary and Maude, so tiny and frail, were reduced to picking up cigar butts in the street, I cried with her when she longed for her friend Ben, and I felt their cold and empty stomach aches as the four could never get warm and never had enough food. If you like stories about the Civil War, about brave young people, written with heart, then this book is for you.

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