The Life She Was Given

This story made me think of the quote by Harper Lee: “You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.”  Meet heroine number one, Lilly, who survives daunting familial abuse only to face even more when she is sold to a circus sideshow traveling through the town in which she lives.

Lilly is a beautiful child, but because it’s the 1930s and she’s a child with albinism, she’s turned into a freakish oddity. Her family locks her away in their attic until she is sold by her mother to the circus at age 10. Having never been allowed to venture outside of her attic domain, she is terrified by her new surroundings and struggles to adjust to them. Ultimately, she develops friendships, finds love, and becomes a featured star performing with her beloved elephants in the Big Tent.

Fast forward several years to when heroine number two, Julia, inherits a horse farm, including the family mansion where Lilly was incarcerated as a youngster. As Julia explores the house, she uncovers hidden areas and secrets to which she is determined to find the answers. She finds her father’s diary. For what horrible deeds did he seek forgiveness? Who is the mysterious Lilly? Her father’s mistress perhaps? Or?

This is not a particularly happy story. However, it shines with the resilience and determination of strong women who refuse to be defeated by adverse circumstances. It also is an insightful look into the bonds created between animals and humans as well as behind-the-scenes life as a circus performer. Does Julia solve the mystery of Lilly? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Go to Great Finds and Giveaways for the chance to be the new owner of my copy of Ellen Marie Wiseman’s The Life She Was Given.

  1. Krista Butters Davis says:

    I am so excited to read this book. It is the next book I will be reading once I finish When The Jessamine Grows. It’s sitting on my nightstand waiting for me! I have enjoyed books from Ellen Marie Wiseman in the past and I bet this one is just as intriguing. Her writing style really draws me in. Plus, I love reading books about strong women determined to overcome what lies in their path.

  2. Krista Butters Davis says:

    I started this book on Monday and can’t put it down! Lilly’s story really draws me in and I am completely baffled at how her mother could treat her the way she does. I also feel really drawn to her because my oldest is really close in age to her when she is sold to the circus. I couldn’t imagine treating my children the same way. I can’t wait to see what secrets Julia discovers and what the outcome for Lilly is.

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Hear Ye!

Below are the Merit Badges that were approved today.

Congratulations Sisters!!

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

Debbie Fischer, #1582, Blessed in Colorado

Beginner Outpost / Farmgirl’s Best Friend

Beginner Make It Easy / Let’s Get Physical

Beginner Make It Easy / Relaxation

Krista Butters-Davis, #528, maryjanesniece

Beginner Each Other / Calligraphy

Expert Stitching & Crafting / UFOs

Hannah Frankowski, #6994, GinnyBelle

Intermediate Make It Easy / Relaxation

Denise Thompson, #43, levisgrammy

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Embroidery

Tina VanDaam, #8431, TinaTina

Expert Stitching & Crafting / Quilling

Joanne Seruto, #7580, JoanneMS58

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Sew Wonderful

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Knitting

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Cross-Stitch

Intermediate Stitching & Crafting / Cross-Stitch

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Quilting

Heather Neeper, #4701, nndairy

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

Intermediate Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

Expert Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

  1. Krista Butters Davis says:

    Congratulations everyone! It’s so exciting to see all these completed badges. Amazing work!

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Ode to Abby

Today, I’m feeling grateful for our farmhand Abigail and want to say so right out loud. Known as Abby to her university cohorts, she’s Abigail to me. Abigail responded to a help-wanted ad I placed on Craigs List two summers ago looking for someone to help me run my B&B. Having worked hard to obtain her PhD in math and then secure a professorship at one of our local universities, she bemoaned the fact that she had “next to zero practical knowledge.”

She’s still working here part time during the school year and full time in the summer, and as it turns out, she and I make a darn good team. When needed, she pitch-hits order fulfillment in our food facility, with a smile and a willing attitude. Always. Plus she’s really good at navigating computers and I am anything but.

And when one of my granddaughters, who excels in math, said she was bored in school and needed help beyond what school had to offer, Professor Abigail came to the rescue!

And Abigail was enthusiastically willing to pitch in when I put together a team of helpers to plant native flower plugs in my prairie using an auger. It was hard, hot work, and the days were long.

And then there was that wintery day she was itching to be outside so I lent her my insulated suit and out the door she went to move help move lumber and firewood.

For my b-day, she gifted me a precious rendition of Farmgirl that she painted free hand.

Last summer, she chose our Valley Lutheran church for exchanging vows with her sweetheart. The night before her wedding, her gaggle of girlfriends camped out here in the B&B venues that Abigail fusses over.

Now you know why I’m grateful for Abigail’s friendship and help.


    How wonderful to find not only a “worker” but a friend! Love the pictures!

  2. Krista Butters Davis says:

    Abigail sounds amazing! I am so happy she found her way to the farm and has been such an amazing help and friend. She sounds like a wonderful Farmgirl.

  3. Debbie Fischer says:

    What a wonderful friend you have MaryJane in Abigail, there for you no matter what. So happy she found you and the farm. She sounds like a true blue Farmgirl.

    • maryjane says:

      Thanks for your comment Debbie. She is indeed true-blue. And as is our annual custom, Abigail and I will be attending 6 a.m. Easter Sunday services in our neighborhood historic church:

      I’m going to surprise her tomorrow morning when she shows up in the wee hours–I’ll be wearing a pink/lime green fascinator bonnet (and jeans and mud boots). Fun.

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