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Louisiana's Way Home

Review

Louisiana's Way Home

In this companion to her award-winning novel RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE, Kate DiCamillo offers readers a heartfelt exploration of self-doubt and starting over in LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME.

Kate DiCamillo hasn’t done much in the way of sequels; no doubt readers have begged to find out “what happened next” to any number of her unforgettable characters. And it’s true that LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME is not exactly a sequel to RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE; it’s more of a companion, able to be thoroughly enjoyed on its own merits. Nevertheless, this latest novel by the Newbery Award–winning DiCamillo is sure to satisfy readers who always wanted to know more about one of Raymie’s beloved “Three Rancheros,” Louisiana Elefante.

"DiCamillo is nothing if not trusting and respectful of children...and she takes her work of writing about their world, their friendships, their triumphs and their inner crises, extremely seriously."

Everything Louisiana knows about herself --- from the tragic deaths of her acrobatic parents to the so-called Curse of Sunderingthat dooms Louisiana and her grandmother to a lifetime of separations --- she’s learned from the grandmother who has raised her. But, true to form, just as Louisiana is gaining comfort and confidence with her two best friends, Raymie and Beverly, she’s sundered once again, uprooted and driven north to Georgia for no good reason, as far as Louisiana can see.

Before long, Granny is growing more and more distant and distracted, and Louisiana is on her own to clean up some serious messes and --- more critically --- to make sense of the mess of her own life. She soon learns that everything she thoughtshe knew about herself was a lie, which means that she doesn’t really understand herself at all. Unmoored, uncertain, Louisiana is completely unsure about who she is or what she should do next. But maybe, after she comes to know some of the kind, big-hearted people in this small Georgia town, she might come to realize that this not knowing offers a kind of freedom, a chance for Louisiana to write her own future, far away from any doomed past or cursed future.

As with her other novels, DiCamillo’s LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME feels on one level nostalgic --- its chronological narrative, straightforward narration, down-home setting and uncomplicated vocabulary make it seem very traditional, if not exactly simple --- but also extremely complicated, as DiCamillo tackles huge emotional questions without pulling any punches for her readers. DiCamillo is nothing if not trusting and respectful of children --- both those she writes about and those she writes for --- and she takes her work of writing about their world, their friendships, their triumphs, and their inner crises, extremely seriously. Readers will be surprised by some of Louisiana’s choices, but they will also understand them --- and, even better, they’ll relish this opportunity to come to know Louisiana herself a bit better through this well realized novel about a character whose story deserved to be told.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 25, 2018

Louisiana's Way Home
(Louisiana's Way Home #1)
by Kate DiCamillo