Lee Conrad Kemsley



“These times will pass… and we’ll endure. Someone once reminded me how extraordinary it all is. I don’t want to lose sight of that.”

Based on the historical and strange Vermont weather events of 1815 and 1816, The Hunger Year tells the compelling story of one girl’s determination for survival. Seventeen-year-old Magen Creed seeks out her father’s family farm in Vermont after fever plagues her small New York settlement. Magen is not certain what to expect upon arrival since she has never set foot on the farm, nor met any of his family. She is pleasantly surprised to find that the person who resides there is none other than her father’s sister, Aunt Eliza. Although the move has improved her circumstances, especially when she finds Gabriel, her love, Magen is unaware that “a year without summer” not only looms ahead but will also result in “one of the worst famines of the nineteenth century.”

In her debut novel, Kemsley has utilized her honed journalist and freelance writing skills to craft a story with a Laura-Ingalls-Wilder feel that takes readers back in a time of American pioneers. While Kemsley’s characters and places are fictional, the strength of her narrative focuses on the lifestyle of New Englanders, particularly the role of women—all tightly interwoven within apt imagery that contrasts the poor rural and wealthy urban conditions. For example, even though Magen and Aunt Eliza’s environs and clothing are basic for that period, Magen is very careful to stay within the expected societal boundaries, while Aunt Eliza’s independent spirit puts her way ahead of her time. On the flip side are Gabriel’s high-society mother and sister who expect others to cater to their every whim within their opulent-leaning ambiance.

While Kemsley’s historical novel is undeniably heart-wrenching, it is a constant reminder that the human spirit can withstand the worst of scenarios. A captivating read, The Hunger Year is ideal for readers, both young and old.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORAfter earning a degree in journalism, Lee worked as a writer and editor for several magazine. The Hunger Year is her first work of fiction.