From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian

The reviews for Amanda Peters’, “The Berry Pickers,” raved about her debut novel (it was the winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and was named to numerous “Best of” lists) but it took some time before I picked it up. And then kicked myself for not reading it earlier. But in my defense, it was never on the shelf when I was looking for a book.

The book begins in 1962 Maine, where members of the Mi’kmaq tribe travel from Nova Scotia to work in the blueberry fields each summer. That year 4-year-old Ruthie vanishes; the last person to see her is her 6-year-old brother Joe. Her disappearance haunts the entire family but Joe never gets over feeling responsible and despite returning to the berry fields each summer, they find no trace of Ruthie.

Meanwhile, a young girl named Norma lives a solitary life with a very protective mother and somewhat distant father in a small Maine town. Norma’s dreams feel more like memories but her mother refuses to talk about her early life, intensifying her feeling that she doesn’t belong in her family’s world. It’s not until her parents’ deaths that she begins to uncover her mysterious path.

This is a difficult book to review since I don’t want to disclose too much but I’m sure you can figure out where it goes. Peters, who is indigenous and a member of the Mi’kmaq nation, got the inspiration for the book from her father who, with his family, was a berry picker in Maine.

She tells a searing story with respect for both sides (though I couldn’t help but get angry with Norma’s mother and feel sympathy for the pain Ruthie’s family went through). This book grabbed me from the first page and was hard to put down. If you’re looking for something to read that’s eye-opening, informative, and well-written, get your name on the holds list today (yep, it’s checked out because it’s a good book!)