“That I went a little mad, I could not deny.” Saundra Mitchell’s opening line of The Springsweet pulls in readers, even those who did not read her first novel, The Vespertine, featuring protagonist Zora Stewart. I know. I am one of those readers. I had no idea that I was venturing into a companion novel. The Springsweet gently introduces readers to Zora and her backstory. We learn that this Baltimore teen’s year long mourning period after the death of her fiancée ranks up there with Queen Victoria’s. And although we don’t know the circumstances of his death, we know that her family is pushing her to move forward. After a scandalous incident, she is sent off to stay with her aunt in the Oklahoma Territory until she “comes to her senses.”
Saundra Mitchell’s Zora is thrown into a much different world in the prairie. She must not only face the hardships of everyday life, but also the encouragement of her aunt to marry the “dandy” who followed her from Baltimore. Ultimately, Zora finds a new life and a new power within her.
The author’s sparse but lovely prose matches her prairie setting. Readers who enjoyed Mitchell’s first title will be pleased to enter into this world again, and new readers will put The Vespertine on their to-read list as soon as they have put The Springsweet down.