A historical novel about a courageous nineteenth-century girl, A Gathering of Days is written in the form of a journal. The teenager's entries give details of daily life with family, friends, and school, rendering a gentle and intimate portrayal of tragedy and tranquility, justice and responsibility, death, loss, and the ability to trust. Through the journal, designed to resemble authentic diaries of pre-Civil War New England, the reader follows Catherine's thoughts and witnesses the changes and growth that maturity brings.
Although a portrait of early New Hampshire, the journal raises questions of relevance today. Catherine's personal standards of right and wrong differ from the accepted standards of society, and she wonders how one should decide what is morally right. Catherine confronts serious issues, including slavery, death, and changes in her family life. Through Catherine's struggles, the author suggests that the secret of life is to embrace all of it—the good and the bad, the transient and the lasting—with courage and caring.