Dream Within a Dream

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Book Review

In Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan, Louisa deepens her passion for writing, discovers the meaning of community and meets her first love during an idyllic summer on her grandparents’ island.

Plot Summary

Eleven-year-old Louisa and her little brother, Theo, spend their summers on Deer Island with their grandparents, Jake and Boots. Louisa sometimes wishes she could join her parents on their exotic travels instead. But it doesn’t take her long to realize this summer will be different from the rest.

Jake is losing his eyesight and seeing doctors on the mainland for macular degeneration. Boots doesn’t drive, and Louisa fears her grandparents will no longer be able to get around. Jake confides he’s teaching the neighbor boy, George, to drive his beloved 1938 Cord car. When George and Louisa meet, they feel an immediate connection. George makes Louisa feel beautiful. Boots says it isn’t strange to fall in love at a young age. She fell in love with Jake at 13.

George invites Louisa to dinner at his house. They joke about it being a date, and she dresses up. George’s father, Eliasi, is Tanzanian. He met his wife, Willa, while she was there helping the women and children of his village. Louisa adores them both and loves the way they laugh and dance together with no music. She discovers her own grandparents do the same, and she’s even surprised to see both couples engaged in long kisses. She’s never seen this level of affection between her own parents.

The more time Louisa spends with George, the more she likes him and respects his kindness toward others. She learns he taught a younger classmate to read English, and now that boy is teaching his father. Soon enough, George and Louisa are dancing without music themselves.

Theo and Louisa enjoy an idyllic summer, trying both to help and learn from their grandparents. They treasure their time with George’s family and other new friends, loving the way people support and care for one another. The town weathers a severe storm. George and Louisa interview locals and write about them as part of an art exhibit. Theo gets a library of his own in his room. But the children worry when they learn their parents are visiting to share some news.

Louisa and Theo’s parents arrive, announcing Dad has been given a grant for two years of study in various exotic places. Mom tells they kids they’ll get to go along. They’ll attend school wherever they happen to be at the time. Mom and Dad are surprised by the children’s dismay. Theo explains that they want to stay on the island, and Louisa adds they want to be with the friends and family they love, working on the projects they care about. Their parents are impressed by the passionate plea and allow the children to stay.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

None.

Authority Roles

Jake and Boots adore their grandchildren and offer sage advice. They understand the kids’ desire for a consistent home life. Other townspeople, such as George’s parents, kindly involve Louisa and Theo in their island activities. The kids’ adventurous parents don’t realize how their travels have negatively impacted their children. In the end, they give the kids the solid home they desire by letting them stay on the island with Jake and Boots.

Profanity & Violence

None.

Sexual Content

Eleven-year-old Louisa and George, who isn’t much older, dance closely and kiss a few times. They gaze into each other’s eyes, touch each other’s cheeks and whisper to each other. George’s parents and Louisa’s grandparents encourage the relationship. Boots mentions several times how young she and Jake were when they first fell in love and kissed. Louisa realizes she can like George and love him at the same time, which means she can enjoy hanging out with him and still kiss him every so often.

The young couple’s budding romance is an innocent one; that said, some parents may not be thrilled with the way Louisa’s grandparents encourage a preteen to embrace her infatuation here, definitely a potential talking point for younger girls who might read this book.

Discussion Topics

Why is macular degeneration scary to Louisa and her grandpa? What does Jake mean when he says having sight but no vision is worse than being blind? When have you watched a friend or loved one suffer with health problems? How did you feel?

What do you think about kids as young as Louisa and George having a romantic relationship? What problems could arise when people become emotionally and physically intimate at a young age? When do you think young people should be allowed to date? What kind of rules should they have in place to maintain a God-honoring dating relationship?

Why does Louisa hate change? What does Boots tell her about the positive aspects of change? When has something changed in your life that made you a better person?

What are your feelings about Theo and Louisa’s parents? Are they thoughtless people, or do they just have different ideas about home and family life than their children? How would you feel if your parents, like Theo and Louisa’s, wanted to take you on a two-year trip?

What are some of the ways different characters show love and kindness to one another? When have you seen people in your church, school or community helping each other out like this?

Additional Comments

Lying: Jake lies to Louisa’s parents and says the kids are asleep so they don’t have to talk to Mom and Dad on the phone.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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