If you could clothe goodness in a character, what what it look like?
If you could depict human flourishing in one snapshot of one place, where would that be?
If you could encapsulate abandonment and solace, dismay and hope, fragmentation and restoration, in one small person’s story, how would it transpire?
Kate DiCamillo gifts us with all of that in this tenderhearted follow-up to her masterful novel, Raymie Nightingale.
Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo
published in 2018 by Candlewick Press
We met Louisiana back in Lister, Florida as she, Raymie Clarke, and Beverly Tapinski forged their heartbreaking, triumphant sisterhood, bonding over candy corn, baton twirling, and an epic dog-rescuing episode. This was a threesome whose fierce, healing friendship smote our hearts with the beauty of camaraderie in a daunting world. Their togetherness soothed like a chord’s resolution.
So when, at the outset of this account, Louisiana’s granny wakens her in the middle of the night and abruptly hustles her away from these friends, into the car and right out of state, all of our emotional hackles rise up. What in the world is Granny thinking?
DiCamillo patiently unfolds the tumult, the dismantling of Louisiana’s newly-stable world, allowing us to climb inside the skin of this lonely little girl who understands better than most that sundering — being torn away from the people you love, the centeredness of home — is a devastating curse.
She people’s her novel with the garden variety of homely people we’ve come to anticipate and relish in her stories, some who face the world with suspicion, hardness, and self-righteous indignation, others whose chests contain walrus-sized hearts of gentle warmth and whose hands hold out platefuls of double chocolate cake. Louisiana encounters them with a survivor’s mix of honesty, bold-faced lies, perceptiveness, wariness, humor, and profound understanding.
We encounter these folks right along with her, and with piercing clarity realize who we want to be in this troubled world, who we want to be for the Louisiana Elefantes we bump into along our way on this infinitesimally spinning planet.
With its powerful current of aching loss and abandonment, generous sprinkling of quirk and humor, and rich vision of the restorative force of lavish love and belonging, here is a novel to guide us and infuse us with hope.
Ages 9 and up, though it helps tremendously if you’ve previously read Raymie Nightingale which I recommended for slightly older readers. This one is a notch lighter in tone. Adults, these beautiful novels are for you, too.