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Monday, 18 February 2019

Review: Louisiana's Way Home

Louisiana’s face on the jacket of Kate DiCamilo’s latest book is a fascinating portrait on reflection. It invites you on a journey you will eagerly travel until the startling end.

The deep-thinking Louisiana Elefante is now 12 years old. She has been taught by her Granny to be wily and resilient, to live by imposing on people, also borrowing and sometimes stealing.

There is nothing taught and nothing told when they leave in the night. Granny simply states that the day of reckoning has arrived.  

They leave behind Buddy the one-eyed dog, Archie the cat, Louisiana’s best friends Raymie Clarke and Beverly Tapinski, and set off in the old car in the direction of the Florida-Georgia State line.

Louisiana has been told stories all her life, mainly about her parents, trapeze artists that were killed in an accident.  The other story that governed her actions was about ‘the curse of sundering’, passed down the generations from Louisiana’s magician Great-grandfather, who during a performance sawed his wife in half, and refused to put her together again.

Granny’s rotted teeth get septic and she becomes severely ill just after they pass the State line. Louisiana is forced to drive the car to find a doctor. A great trial and challenge begins for Louisiana, who meets a boy named Burke, with whom she spends a lot of time while Granny recovers in the Motel room.

Then suddenly, Granny leaves with the car, abandoning Louisiana. A letter explaining she has left to confront the curse alone so Louisiana can remain safe is accompanied by the truth about the Elefantes and Granny’s real relationship to her.

Now Louisiana is sundered; fragmented by the knowledge that all she knew of her life was made up. She questions who she really is while forced to make decisions and choices about how to find a way home.

The story begins with Granny and Louisiana’s life and relationship, and how the two of them survived for twelve years by using their wits. This seems to settle the story into a groove. Unexpectedly, the twists begin. The reason for Granny’s leaving is revealed. There are things left unsaid and other things hinted at for the reader to decipher. I loved this about the crafting of the story. Gentle insinuation mixed with truth, light and shadows.

I was taken unawares by the perfect design of DiCamillo’s storyline. Its themes address the strength of love and sacrifice, the results of abandonment, and the reasons we do whatever is necessary, however others may perceive our actions, to protect the people we love the most.

Title: Louisiana’s Way Home
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books, $19.99
Publication Date: October 2018
Format: Hardcover
For ages: 9+
Type: Junior Fiction

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