She’s seventeen years old. She doesn’t have a high school diploma. She’s an orphan. She doesn’t have any money. She’s in the middle of nowhere. She has a nice boy offering her a safe future as his wife.
Hattie is not going to let any of that stand in her way.
The Good: I adore Hattie Inez Brooks.
Spoilers for Hattie Big Sky, which yes, you should read, because not only is it the first part of Hattie’s story, but it’s also a terrific book. In the previous book, Hattie was left a homestead claim by her Uncle Chester, a relative she’d never met. Hattie goes to Montana and spends a year trying to make the claim work. Here’s the spoiler, and part of the reason the book is wonderful: Hattie fails in her attempt. I know!
It’s not necessary to have read Hattie Big Sky to understand Hattie Ever After. The reader is quickly caught up on what is going on in Hattie’s life. She’s cooking and cleaning for a boarding house, having just paid off the last of her Uncle’s debts. Hattie has three “safe” options facing her: stay at the boarding house and keep working; travel to Seattle where her good friends live and make a life with them; accept a life with her childhood friend, Charlie.
Hattie throws “safe” away. Hattie Big Sky matters not because of what happened to Hattie but because of how it made Hattie who she is. Someone who has lived through the worst and come through on the other side. Someone who realizes it’s worth it to try; someone who is willing to take chances; someone who is willing to work hard.
Hattie quits her job at the boarding house, keeps writing to her friends in Seattle but no, won’t be joining them; and turns down Charlie. Remember, she doesn’t have money or connections. She does have determination. “I am counting the minutes until the next thing. What is that, you ask? I do not know.” A mysterious letter to Uncle Chester from San Francisco and a job opportunity with a vaudeville show on its way to San Francisco convinces Hattie that is the big city she should move to. And she’s off!
Hattie Ever After paints a wonderful picture of San Francisco after World War I, as Hattie experiences all of it. She wants to be a reporter, inspired for some writing she’d done in Hattie Big Sky, and she writes and takes the first job available at the local newspaper for a girl like Hattie: in the cleaning crew. The cleaning crew! It’s realistic and it shows Hattie’s character. She’s not to proud to work hard.
Hattie listens; she learns; and she pursues her opportunities, making her own luck as she goes. It’s important to do it on her own, but she doesn’t shut people out. She makes new friends in San Francisco, including the woman who sent her Uncle the letter. Hattie, the orphan, enjoys making this connection to someone who knew her family: for an orphan, it’s almost like finding family. She writes her friends in Seattle, she makes friends at her jobs, and she keeps in touch with Charlie.
There is a bit of a mystery: Hattie trying to find out more about her uncle. But to say more than that — well. I’ll just say part of becoming independent, as Hattie does, includes learning who to trust.
I love the romance with Charlie: it’s a light touch that doesn’t overwhelm the book, but is still important. Much like Charlie himself. He respects Hattie’s dreams, but isn’t sure that he can place his own life and dreams on hold. That’s fair. And Hattie is also trying to be fair to herself: she is only seventeen. She does have dreams. She fears that if she picks Charlie, now, that will be her only choice, ever.
And, as with Hattie Big Sky, I love the details that ground Hattie’s story: the food she eats, the clothes, the styles, the news articles.