The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming
Washington Territory is just the place for men of broad mind and sturdy constitution—and girls too, Jane figures, or Mr. Mercer wouldn’t have allowed her to come on his expedition to bring unmarried girls and Civil War widows out west.
Jane’s constitution is sturdy enough. She’s been taking care of her baby brother ever since Papa was killed in the war and her young stepmother had to start working long days at the mill. The problem, she fears, is her mind. It might not be suitably broad because she had to leave school to take care of little Jer. Still, a new life awaits in Washington Territory, and Jane plans to make the best of it.
Except Seattle doesn’t turn out to be quite as advertised. In this rough-and-tumble frontier town, Jane is going to need every bit of that broad mind and sturdy constitution—not to mention a good sense of humor and a stubborn streak a mile wide.
A tale of traveling, family, and change
Jane is thrilled for her expedition to the Washington Territory with her little brother and stepmother. Mr. Mercer’s pamphlet about the West seems dreamy, and though she knows it will take a tough constitution and mind, she’s ready for the challenge. Ever since her father died, life has been rough, and she believes it’s given her just the strength she needs for this new adventure. However, when Jane and her family arrived in the territory, they find nothing like Mr. Mercer promised. Is Jane strong and adaptable enough to tackle an unexpected journey?
What I Loved:
THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING has a premise that grabs from the start. I haven’t read many middle grade books that focus on the movement, particularly of single or widowed women, to the Washington Territory. Jane feels everything one would expect to be young and traveling: hopeful, excited, eager, and a bit nervous. She creates a fantasy of the territory (along with the ‘help’ of Mr. Mercer’s pamphlets), and she experiences shocks before she even arrives there, such as when she is asked to be an assistant for a teacher on board the ship. J. Anderson Coats expertly captures the historical setting and hopes of the passengers on the ship.
While there is plenty to enjoy in this story, Jane is my favorite part. At Jane’s age, she isn’t sure where she fits in. Playing with dolls seems too young for her age, even though she loves playing with them, but her new, older friends on board are concerned with things she hasn’t given a thought to, like flirting and society. She often feels like the odd one out, something many young readers in that awkward and new phase will relate to. As her journey progresses, readers get to see Jane find her own way and accept herself as she is.
What Left Me Wanting More:
While I enjoyed this story, the pacing is on the slower side. A good portion of time is spent traveling, enough to where I wondered if the whole story would be set on board. However, much of what happens to Jane while traveling is crucial to her development before she arrives at the territory, so readers are definitely rewarded for their patience.
I wouldn’t recommend this one for reluctant readers, but THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING is an excellent choice for those who want a slower paced story where the focus is on powerful character development. Jane Deming is easily relatable, lovable, and worth joining on an adventure.