MMGM (12/9/2019): Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

As promised last week, for MMGM, I am recommending Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo. Before I do though, I want to remind everyone that the 2019 Holiday Book Giveaway has not ended yet! Enter on or before Wednesday, December 11, 2019 for a chance to win (1) a boxed set of the very book I am recommending and its two companion novels and (2) a signed copy of The Inquisitor's Tale! Enter using the Google Form at the bottom of the linked page.




Louisiana's Way Home is the second in a series of three books: the first is Raymie Nightingale (see my review here) and the third is Beverly, Right Here. This book does spoil some pretty significant parts of Raymie Nightingale, but, to be honest, I enjoyed this book far more than Raymie Nightingale, so readers may want to start with this one despite the spoilers (it still makes complete sense, especially considering I forgot almost all of the plot of Raymie Nightingale before reading it). Here's the publisher's description of Louisiana's Way Home:

***

“Louisiana, with her quick, insightful takes on everyone she meets, grabbed readers’ hearts in Raymie Nightingale, and in this book she isn’t about to let go.” — The New York Times Book Review

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for goodbyes. Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by the New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale. Now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.

***

         Kate DiCamillo is well-known as one of the best middle-grade novelists ever. She has received two Newbery Medals and one Newbery Honor and even served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature (as selected by the Library of Congress). With all of those accolades, one could only expect the very best of her books, and Louisiana's Way Home does not disappoint.
          The quote from the New York Times Book Review above about Louisiana immediately getting readers' attention in Raymie Nightingale is absolutely true. More than just the strange, quirky sidekick, Louisiana had a depth that I wanted to see explored when I read Raymie Nightingale, and I could not have hoped for her character to be better explored than it was in Louisiana's Way Home. Louisiana's delicate-seeming manner (including her "swampy lungs" and propensity for fainting) belies her immense strength, which is best showcased by an event at the beginning of the book. When her Granny begins to suffer from an extreme toothache, Louisiana takes over and drives her Granny's car (with no driving experience, in a scene reminiscent of Walk Two Moons) to find a dentist, whose receptionist she ends up tricking to get her Granny treated despite them having no money to pay with. Besides being an exciting series of events, this occurrence shows that Louisiana is stronger and braver than her demeanor would suggest (and than her own perception of herself suggests). This event does not come without guilt and stress for Louisiana, but it also tells readers from the beginning that, with Louisiana, there is more than meets the eye.
          Louisiana's Way Home does more than just explore a character, though, or even explore a world: it explores life. Author Kate DiCamillo has a knack for finding the beauty, joy, irony, and sorrow hidden in places where one might not think to look, and Louisiana has a knack for looking in those places. In one scene, Louisiana stops at a gas station where a kind owner gives her as many bags of peanuts as she wants (which she practically inhales); in another scene (actually, in several other scenes), Louisiana is bothered by motel curtains in Georgia covered in palm trees (almost as if they aspire to be in Florida, where she is from). These moments seem random on the surface, but if you choose to look deeper (as Louisiana does in her narration), you can see the significance of the small things in real life as well. Louisiana's voice also deserves mention: her tangential way of speaking (even from sentence to sentence) as she discusses small things and life-changing events alike, as well as the repetition and old-fashioned diction in her sentences, give her a voice so distinct that it could be used to teach other authors about voice. If Louisiana was real and I overheard her talking, I would know who she was.
          To conclude this review, I want to praise this novel's plot and other characters. I love books in which characters journey through different places and meet different people, and Louisiana meets no shortage of strange characters in strange places. Some characters appear again and again (such as Miss Lulu, the rude church organist), while others appear for no more than a few pages (such as Carol Anne, a kind grandmother who Louisiana meets at the dentist), but all are quite memorable. Louisiana makes wonderful new friends and some new enemies, and, refreshingly, there is no effort to redeem some of these enemies: some people are just mean, plain and simple. Finally, Louisiana's Granny, who is also central to the story (I'm honestly not sure how I spent so long not talking about her), is a memorable character fleshed out both by the impact she has had on Louisiana over the years and by the split-second, rash decisions she makes in the events of the book. Granny's assertive, secretive personality does not always please Louisiana (who is more of an open book—literally), which is why seeing their similarities and love of each other is even more interesting.
          Louisiana's Way Home should be at the top of your reading list (even before the preceding book Raymie Nightingale, if I'm being honest) thanks to its spectacular protagonist, eventful plot, interesting characters, gorgeous writing, and unique perspective on life. This book would be a fabulous holiday gift for a loved one or a wonderful treat for oneself—you will not be disappointed!
          (Again, don't forget to enter the 2019 Holiday Book Giveaway, featuring a boxed set of this book and its two companion novels! Enter using the Google Form at the bottom of the linked page.)

Update (1/2/2021): My rating is: Stunning!



Comments

  1. I really love this book as well, for all the reasons you stated. Thanks for your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've heard great things about this book. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can also pour extra praise on this story. Such a great character and the writing flows beautifully. Thanks for your thoughts as I fully agree with them all.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love Kate DiCamillo's novels. I read 'Raymie Nightengale', but have not taken the time to read the next two stories in the series. Thank you, once again, for this great giveaway and for sharing your thoughts in this MMGM post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I read Raymie Nightengale, but haven't read the others. This one does sound appealing and I especially enjoyed your review. Louisiana was my favorite of the three characters from the first book. Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway.
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Louisiana is a fabulous character! I hope you enjoy the book!

      Delete
  6. I really enjoyed reading your review. I loved Louisiana's Way - heartbreaking an humorous at the same time. It was the first book I read inthe series -- still have to read the first book. But Kate is a master storyteller!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her books are all fantastic! I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

      Delete
  7. I really liked this book, in fact I liked the whole trilogy and the way DiCamillo let them age. I'm glad you also like it. Thanks for sharing your review with MMGM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure! I'm glad you liked the whole trilogy—I'm excited to read the third book!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment—I always love reading them!

Popular posts from this blog

MMGM and #IMWAYR: Clash by Kayla Miller (plus a quick survey!)

MMGM and #IMWAYR: The Leak, written by Kate Reed Petty and illustrated by Andrea Bell

#IMWAYR: Alone in Space: A Collection by Tillie Walden