Across the Puddingstone Dam, the last Charlotte Years book, is the best one. Dealing with issues of death, loss, family, change, and maturity, it’s the most serious of all four books, but there are still moments that are heartwarming and uplifting. One of those is the reunion of Martha and Duncan. The benefit of Wiley having written both the Martha Years and the Charlotte Years is that there’s no retconning or mistakes made—stories and characters and situations are true to what was revealed earlier.
This book is the last Charlotte book, but it’s also so closely related to Martha that it’s almost as if it’s a continuation of the Martha Years. We learn much more about Martha in this book than we ever did in the first three Charlotte books. Perhaps this book was written with the knowledge that HarperCollins was killing the series, so Wiley wanted to give as much information about her characters as possible. The book is still definitely about Charlotte, but there is a strong focus on Martha—even to the extent of sacrificing the characterization of Charlotte’s brothers and sisters.
I’m really not sure how historically accurate Wiley’s books are (in terms of the real-life people they depict, not the events), but if there’s one thing I can appreciate about this book, it’s the love and dedication Wiley clearly has for these characters, particularly Martha. And while the maturity of this book is quite a step up from the previous titles, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, as it shows that Charlotte is growing up, too. The Charlotte Years were not my favorite, but Across the Puddingstone Dam was a highlight.