Author leads book discussion Oct. 15

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FARMINGTON – On Wednesday, 15 Oct. at 7:00 p.m., novelist M.P. Barker will be at the Farmington Public Library to discuss her award-winning historical novel, A Difficult Boy.

The event, sponsored by Devaney, Doak & Garrett, Booksellers, of Farmington, is free and open to the public. The book won a PEN New England children’s Book Caucus Discovery Award and was featured by Kirkus Reviews in its First Fiction Special Issue (15 April 2008), which noted that Barker brings this story of indentured servitude “ringingly, cringingly to life.”

Not many historical fiction writers get to actually live in their characters’ worlds. But Barker spent nearly a decade time-traveling to 19th-century New England on a daily basis at Old Sturbridge Village, where she worked as a costumed historical interpreter. That experience helped her bring realism and immediacy to her historical novel, A Difficult Boy. “Barker’s gift for historical detail illuminates this absorbing first novel, accurately portraying the pleasures and the harsh realities of 19th-century Massachusetts farm life,” said Publisher’s Weekly (28 April 2008).

Set in the fictitious town of Farmington, Mass., in 1839, A Difficult Boy tells the story of two young indentured servants—one of them Irish—who must overcome their differences to outwit their abusive master and win their freedom. Because of his family’s debts, young Ethan must work for Mr. Lyman, a wealthy shopkeeper. Ethan tries to befriend the Lymans’ other indentured servant, but Daniel, as everyone says, is a difficult boy. Sixteen years old, Irish, and moody, Daniel brushes off Ethan as if he were a pesky gnat. Ethan resolves to ignore the older boy, but is then shocked to see how cruelly Mr. Lyman treats Daniel. Soon, Ethan, too, is suffering Mr. Lyman’s blows. Self-preservation drives the two boys together and they begin to forge a friendship. Then they discover a dark secret about the past that could change their lives forever.

Although the story is set 170 years ago, the book’s young protagonists grapple with problems that are still current: prejudice, abuse, poverty, grief, and loneliness. And they cherish the same things that matter to readers today: loyalty, kindness, trust and most of all, friendship. “Readers will like this book for its attention to heady issues like early prejudice against the Irish (Daniel is Irish) and the treatment of indentured servants as young as themselves, and for its satisfying and hopeful conclusion,” said Publisher’s Weekly.

Barker is also a historical consultant whose writing projects have included exhibit text, scripts for historical dramatizations, nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, fundraising materials, and planning studies. She is a member of the Class of 2k8, a marketing collaborative of 27 authors of debut young-adult and middle-grade novels. More information is available at her website:

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