Consider what happened to Lyddie and Charlie’s father. How does what happened affect their plans?

Lyddie's father left the family in order to search for gold and strike it rich. This affected the family because he left them with a mountain of debt.

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Very little detail is given to readers regarding Lyddie's father. When the book begins, he is already absent from the family. As readers continue with the book, we are able to piece some things together. Lyddie's father left the family in hopes of striking it rich by finding gold. He left the family, and he hasn't been heard from since. Lyddie and Charlie hold out hope that their father will return, and that is why Lyddie makes the decision to stay on the property during the winter. Lyddie believes that she needs to take care of the property and keep it ready for when her father returns.

The main problem isn't so much that their father left the family. The additional problem is that Lyddie's father left the family with a mountain of debt. While Lyddie and Charlie are successful at keeping things running through the winter, that doesn't change the debt owed. Consequently, Lyddie and Charlie are sold off into indentured servitude, and Lyddie has to work in the tavern to help pay back the debt. She will learn that the mills offer much more earning potential, so Lyddie begins working in the mills. Her entire goal is to earn enough money to pay back the debt and keep the family's property. She believes that by doing this, the family will be reunited.

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In chapter 1, Lyddie's mother says that their father has run off "searching for vain riches." Rachel objects to their mother's insistence that their father is never coming back. Lyddie, too, believes their father will return at first. Lyddie's mother is mentally ill, so her description of the father's actions is not reliable. The father left home because he was unable to make a living on the farm he had purchased. His financial decisions were not wise; the farm itself had only scraggly sugar maples that couldn't produce enough maple syrup to sell, and his oat crop was meager. While he hoped to be able to sell the potash from burning the timber from his cleared land, the market for that product was slim. Thinking he could make money by selling wool, he purchased three sheep with borrowed money, but his timing was off—the "bottom [had just] dropped out of the wool market." In short, he was "an unlucky man," despite working hard and loving his family.

As the book opens, the family has not seen nor heard from Mr. Worthen for two years. Later, when Lyddie meets Ezekial, she considers that her father might be in a similar situation to the runaway slave, "totally dependent on the kindnesses of others for everything." However, if that was so, he should have been able to beg or borrow some paper and a postage stamp to write to them, even as Diana gives Lyddie the means to write her family. Other possibilities are that Mr. Worthen inadvertently fell into a life of crime, as did Lyddie's literary hero Oliver Twist, or that he became ill and had no one to nurse him back to health. Lyddie and Mrs. Bedlow agree that if Lyddie had not had Rachel by her side, devotedly nursing her during her illness, she would have died. Although it's not clear what has become of Mr. Worthen, the fact that he has not communicated with them in over two years makes it unlikely that he is alive or able to return.

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