A Girl of the Limberlost — Gene Stratton Porter

elnora “A Girl of the Limberlost” is the first Gene Stratton Porter book I ever had the privilege to read, and it certainly wasn’t the last. Elnora Comstock’s father passed away years ago, leaving her behind with her heartsick mother, Kate. Kate’s grief has turned into cold, sullen anger, and Elnora has never really been shown kindness from her mother. She has friends on a neighboring farm, but it’s not the same as her mother’s love.

High school is just around the corner, and Elnora needs money for books. It’s an added expense her mother wasn’t prepared for, and she refuses to help. Elnora is on her own. Walking through town one day, she sees a sign in a window, advertising to buy butterflies and moths.

The limberlost of Indiana where Elnora lives is thick with the beautiful winged creatures, and she’s been catching them all her life. Knowing this is an answer to her problem, she heads out to gather the rare species her benefactor, the Bird Woman, is looking for.

Little by little, she is able to buy her books and clothes, and starts finding a life for herself beyond the small house where she grew up. One day at school, she discovers the violin, and finds that she has a natural talent for it. But her mother refuses to let her play it and their relationship continues its downward spiral until finally, the secret behind Elnora’s father’s death is revealed.

I have loved this book for as long as I can remember. The author goes into such detail on how to catch the butterflies, the types and the species, that you feel you’re right there in the woods, hunting them out. It was difficult for me to identify with Kate at first; how any mother could allow her hate to harm her daughter like that was beyond me, but as Kate changes, she becomes a sympathetic character and I grew to appreciate what she had been through. The introduction of Billy into the plot was a tender touch, and Phillip – well, what can one say about Phillip?

A classic for a very good reason, “The Girl of the Limberlost” is a must read for anyone who wants to experience great American literature.