Louisiana's Way Home
"I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known, so that if someone were to stand at their window at night and look up at the stars and think, My goodness, whatever happened to Louisiana Elefante? Where did she go? they will have an answer. They will know.
This is what happened.
I will begin at the beginning."
So, too, does Kate DiCamillo begin her latest novel Louisiana's Way Home.
Kate DiCamillo is one of those authors whose books constantly leave me in awe of the gift she has with storytelling. One reads her children's novels and knows that she writes what we refer to as "classics." These are the stories we fall in love with and read and re-read again and again, to our children, to our grandchildren, or to ourselves. From the moment I met Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie when I read this book to my older son, I knew in the same way that I knew when I read an author like E.B. White: this is an author I trust to take me anywhere their imagination wants to lead. And she is one of those few authors who, whenever their book is released, I buy it.
The first-person narrator of this book, Louisiana Elefante, was first introduced to us in DiCamillo's heartbreakingly tender Raymie Nightingale. In her first sequel, DiCamillo unfolds the story of Louisiana Elefante. Louisana's Granny wakes her up at 3 am one night and drives her out of Florida with no plans to ever return and without telling the 12-year-old why other than it was to break the family "curse." What happens in this slender volume is breathtaking and can make the reader laugh out loud one moment and cry the next; in fact, this novel had me in tears reading it in a doctor's waiting room.
In the early part of the story, Louisiana goes into the office of the Reverend Frank Obertask, in the hopes of getting guidance. The Reverend is not there, but Louisiana writes, "I looked around the office. It was filled with books. They were piled up on the desk and on the floor. The walls were lined with shelves and the shelves were jammed tight with books.
My goodness, it was a lot of books.
Whoever Reverend Frank Obertask was, he certainly believed in the power of the written word. And that was fine by me, because I believe in the power of the written word, too. For instance, I believe in these words I am writing because they are the truth of what happened to me."
And Kate DiCamillo not only believes in the power of the written word but she has a way with those words as well. In telling the story of Louisiana, a child of trauma, DiCamillo offers us the power of words said and unsaid, and the power of the written word (including those of a letter her Granny writes to her). Louisana is resourceful and resilient. And the story she tells is so honest and funny and unexpected, that the reader cannot help but become deeply and dearly involved with what happens to this child.
Later in the book, Louisiana finally meets Reverend Obertask and he tells her, "It is a good and healing thing to tell your story." And it is.
Kate DiCamillo tells the story of abandonment and connection, of hope and of healing, of family and forgiveness.
This is a truly special book and one that, like many of DiCamillo's career, is destined to become a classic.
(Louisiana's Way will be released in October 2018).
Kate DiCamillo's official website: