by Ingrid Hill
This ambitious tale opens when the title character, age 2, falls down a long-abandoned mine shaft in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Some 476 pages later, we discover her fate. In the meantime, while Ursula's parents wait in agony, Hill offers her readers a fictional anthropology lesson, moving swiftly from China, 300 years before the Western calendar begins, to 17th-century Finland, to California during the Gold Rush—exploring the many tragedies, triumphs and coincidences that have led to this moment in one child's life. Hill is an astute, imaginative writer, but her interspersing of contemporary chapters with ancient history leaves readers little room to form attachments to her characters. Still, her central theme makes the book worth reading: No matter what ails us in the present, "suddenly, it is the future," and hope can spring anew.