At first it was a slow start, but the story is engrossing, so stick with it. The vernacular of some characters' dialog can be difficult to decipher, and this too slows the story. Wiggin's writing style can also take some getting used to.
Rebecca Randall, a vibrant, lively, good hearted girl, is sent to her maternal aunts in Riverboro, Maine to receive an education (that her mother hopes to be "the making of" Rebecca). Rebecca's tenure with her aunts also ameliorates the economic situation at home where her ne'er do well father is three years dead, there are seven small mouths to feed, and a mortgage to pay on the farm. Any tiny, unexpected hardship can throw a wrench into the family's tenuous circumstances, but all the Randalls know is scrapping by to live.
While aunts Mirandy and Jane initially requested the eldest Randall child, Hannah, due to her stoic, responsible nature and her surface resemblance to the Sawyer "side of the house," it is the lively, talkative Rebecca who is sent instead. Even prior to her arrival in Riverboro, Rebecca charms everyone she meets, although this lively nature fails to charm miserable, miserly aunt Mirandy. Throughout the novel, aunt Mirandy and Rebecca continue to butt heads though at some point Mirandy realizes that Rebecca is indeed a good person who takes after the Sawyers in her care and sense of duty and responsibility that she feels towards her family. However, Mirandy never lets on about this change of heart to her beloved niece.
The reader follows what is indeed "the making of Rebecca" over the course of the novel that covers about five or six years while she's under her aunts' tutelage, attending the local school, and then her time at the boarding school that she attends for high school. Over these years she acquires friends, honorary uncle and aunt, and a rich businessman benefactor and admirer as well as a female teacher mentor. This is all due to Rebecca's good hearted, charming, and lively nature.
My Thoughts (You know I had some)
Aunt Mirandy is miserable, and it's easy to hate her in the beginning. However, Mirandy is not your average 'storybook villain' in that at her core she's not unnecessarily cruel or evil. She's a blunt, abrasive woman, who's cheap, but she's not evil. And in the end her love for Rebecca and what she does for her niece redeems her.
It's ironic that Hannah, the niece the aunts originally wanted, turns out to be most like the Randalls at her core in terms of familial duty and responsibility.
Also "Mr. Aladdin." What is up with a grown man taking an interest in a little girl? Later as Rebecca grows older, especially when she's off at school as a teenager, it's implied that perhaps Mr. Aladdin may harbor some romantic feelings towards Rebecca. Or maybe I, as a modern reader, was just reading something into their relationship that wasn't intended by Wiggin. And the novel ends way before anything like a romantic relationship begins between Mr. Aladdin and Rebecca. I still don't know whatt to think about this except to say that if a future romance is implied, it's slightly disturbing because Mr. Aladdin, an adult, meets Rebecca when she is still a child.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie