By Jean Webster
“Dear Judy: Your letter is here. I have read it twice, and with amazement. Do I understand that Jervis has given you, for a Christmas present, the making over of the John Grier Home into a model institution, and that you have chosen me to disburse the money? Me – I, Sallie McBride, the head of an orphan asylum! My poor people, have you lost your senses, or have you become addicted to the use of opium, and is the raving of two fevered imaginations? I am exactly as well fitted to take care of one hundred children as to become the curator of a zoo.”
“You remember that illuminated text over the dining-room door–“The Lord Will Provide.” We’ve painted it out, and covered the spot with rabbits. It’s all very well to teach so easy a belief to normal children, who have a proper family and roof behind them; but a person whose only refuge in distress will be a park bench must learn a more militant creed than that. The Lord has given you two hands and a brain and a big world to use them in. Use them well, and you will be provided for; use them ill, and you will want,” is our motto, and that with reservations.”
This is an old favorite from my childhood. A sequel to the much more famous Daddy-Long-Legs, it is a much better book. Sallie, the heroine, is a charmer. Open, gregarious, brave, funny, compassionate, and a modern woman. There is a sweet romance, and some real drama and tear-jerking moments. Sallie is a society girl who takes over the orphanage that her friend Judy from DLL was raised in. She is bored with her easy meaningless life. She takes the old-fashioned behind-the-times orphanage by storm. We learn the stories of the orphans, some funny, some heart-rending. Sallie and Judy’s friends and Sallie’s fiancé have minor roles. Sandy, the local Scottish doctor, plays a major role and has a backstory of his own. One of the modern ideas Sallie has in her toolbelt is, unfortunately, eugenics. Today, the notion is anathema, but back then it was considered to be modern science and embraced by many intelligent professionals. Try to ignore those parts.
The novel is a series of Sallie’s letters to Judy and others detailing her triumphs and challenges in her new position. I love epistolary novels because of this book. Oh! and the letters are illustrated with Sallie’s very cute drawings!
**5 out of 5 stars**
April 3, 2018