Louisiana's Way Home, Kate DiCamillo
I’ll start with this. You can never go wrong with Kate DiCamillo. I’ve loved her work since I was first introduced to Because of Winn Dixie as a kid. It was only in recent years, however, that I’ve explored the rest of her works, some of which have been released only in the last couple of years. This is an author that isn’t going anywhere any time soon and we are all the luckier for that.
What’s the Book?
Louisiana’s Way Home is a follow up to DiCamillo’s book Raymie Nightengale. However, there’s no missed context or pressing connections needed to enjoy this work. It’s simply a new story following an already introduced character from another book.
The book is narrated by Louisiana herself which immediately sets a sweet but hilarious tone. She opens the story blithely admitting that her family is cursed, hence the predicament she currently finds herself in. The predicament is her Granny abruptly fleeing the state with Louisiana in tow, leaving everything they know behind.
What follows is a slightly zany journey in which Louisiana tries to unravel her anger, sense of displacement, and yearning for belonging, all while trying to keep her unhinged Granny in check.
Why It’s a Top Ten
If you’re familiar with any of DiCamillo’s other works, then you already know how easy it is for this book to land on a top ten list. She has an incredible capacity for digging beautiful imagery, out of seemingly ordinary characters and settings. And in that lies another layer of her genius as an author. With such easily identifiable characters, it’s equally easy to recognize yourself in the pages of her books, and Louisiana’s Way Home is no exception. True, this book may be targeted toward children, but any children’s author worth their salt has an ability to tell a story in terms a child can understand but an adult can resonate with, and I daresay DiCamillo is something of a master on this score.
She never shies away from big questions or weighty content and finds a way to weave those concepts into the more lighthearted moments of her book. While we spend the majority of the book watching Louisiana absentmindedly charm her way past cranky dentist receptionists, disillusioned motel owners, and a preacher she can’t stop comparing to a walrus, Louisiana also spends all of that time wrestling with weighty topics that lie heavy on her young heart. She constantly muses about where she came from, why she must spend her life running, and more than anything desperately wants to know if anyone will ever claim her as their own.
DiCamillo’s strength lies in poignant little moments in a seemingly ordinary world. Observational asides are key to her storytelling and the way she chooses to go about them leaves a reader humming with whimsical ponderings. A reader can’t help but apply their own trials to Louisiana’s lense and relate to this scrappy, girlish, charmer who just wants a place she can be at home.
DiCamillo lands the plane of belonging with Louisiana’s oft returned to musing “Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down, but who picks us up.” And that’s the heart of the story. That no matter what the world may throw at us to keep us from belonging there’s always hope that someone will come along who truly wants to pick us up and claim us. There is no hope quite like that.