Lightning Tree, by Sarah Dunster is an intriguing and often sad story about the life of a pioneer orphan, Maggie. Set against the political and social intrigue of the "Cedar Incident" Maggie must find ways to cope in a new and often inhospitable environment with a heartless adopted mother and a sometimes indifferent adopted father. Nightmares slowly remind Maggie of the terrible events that have unfolded in her life, events that she suppressed because they are too awful to remember, but her memories are not always accurate which adds to the pain and confusion she feels. Dunster does a wonderful job of exploring Maggie's pain. It really is heartbreaking, but she does it in a way that is exciting enough to keep me turning the pages. While I admit that I found myself most drawn to the political intrigue and secrecy surrounding the "Cedar Incident", Lightning Tree successfully mingles the emotional struggles of the individual with the social struggles of the community. This was a fascinating read, and while Maggie's dramatic personal conflict sometimes overpowers the political I think there is plenty in this book to keep both the male and female reader engaged.