Summary: Born with a twin, Maggie is devastated when she and her sister Thomasina are separated after the deaths of both of their parents. Maggie is sent overseas to Canada, while Thomasina gets to stay with their father’s elderly aunt. Believing for years that there was something more desirable about Thomasina and horrible about herself that caused her to be sent away, Maggie is torn but wants to see her sister, especially after she starts having vivid dreams about finding her. Unexpected news reveals Thomasina is not as far away as Maggie originally thought, but untangling herself from her current living situation to go and find her takes time and some ingenuity.
Number of Pages: 244
Age Range: 11-13
Review: Troon Harrison’s book itself is a bushel of light. Her writing and descriptive talents are gorgeous, and though I only picked out three memorable quotes, the whole book is one because it is so vividly beautiful.
At the heart is the story of twin sisters separated in childhood. One is sent from England to Canada, and the other stays with an elderly relative. A Bushel of Light is told from Maggie’s perspective, the twin who was sent away to live in a foreign country all alone. With a pioneering spirit, Maggie makes her way despite being plagued by self-doubt over why she was sent away instead of her sister, and her constant feeling of missing her other half. Just fourteen years old, Maggie works on a farm dealing with an entitled son who pushes her around, a farmer’s wife who is severely depressed, and a young girl named Lizzy whom Maggie is all but a mother to.
When she starts dreaming about Thomasina, she knows she has to find her again. Believing she is still in England, Maggie starts plotting on how she can make her way back over there. After a few run away attempts, Maggie finds her chance to escape actually lies in doing what she knows is best for the family she lives with. She doesn’t always like them, but she still has their best interests at heart.
I loved gaining perspective on how powerful a twin relationship is, as well as learning more about the reality for Barnardo orphans. It’s easy to see why Maggie was so eager to get away and go after her sister, and I was happy with how things turned out.
It’s a younger read for pre to very early teen readers, and it’s a lovely one.
“If I didn’t get answers to these questions, I would never be happy. Even though I had wide open spaces and maple trees on drumlins, even though I had learned how to do a hundred things on the farm, like driving horses and growing flowers, unless I found Thomasina, I would never be happy. I would only be half a person, even here. Even in this country I loved and didn’t want to leave. And had no money to leave. First I had to find some money, and then I had to go and find Thomasina. Or all my life I would carry her memory in my bones, like a pain, and I would have a box in my mind with the lid shut tight. And I would dream about her face at the window.” – Maggie from A Bushel of Light by Troon Harrison, page 55
“I couldn’t imagine him being like Harold. Maybe there was more to it than luck and fairness, I thought. Maybe people could decide for themselves how they wanted to act in life. I wondered about Thomasina, about what kind of a person she had turned into from living with an old lady at Nancledra. If she was hot tempered. What kind of things made her laugh. If she liked flowers.” – Maggie from A Bushel of Light by Troon Harrison, page 148
“I kept think about the past being like a place you could never return to, no matter how hard you tried. Kathleen could never be that person beside the lake again, that girl in her old album. Thomasina and I could never be those little girls who had run on the beach in St. Ives. I tried to imagine what it would be like, when we met each other . . . I hoped we could be friends.” – Maggie from A Bushel of Light by Troon Harrison, page 139