To be a child crippled by the curse of sundering is a study in perpetual loss — unless that child springs from the able pen of two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo.
And then? Then hope springs eternal, too.
Admittedly, my own hope was guarded when I discovered that DiCamillo had written a sequel to the 2016 National Book Award Finalist “Raymie Nightingale.” Guarded because that stunning novel featured Raymie’s strong voice, and while Raymie was but one-third of the friendship trifecta which forms that novel, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski were regulated definitively to the position of elevated sidekicks.
In other words, I had doubts that DiCamillo could again pull off the narrative voice that had made “Raymie Nightingale” such a simple yet meditative study of life and loyalty and friendship.
But the author does not pretend. Although not known for pitching sequels, DiCamillo has said that Louisiana’s was a story needing to be told, a voice needing to be heard, and that she was little more than scribe listening to these inner directives. Hesitant to get in the way of such driving forces, “Louisiana’s Way Home” (Candlewick) is the result, a story replete with turbulence but stripped to its raw elements under DiCamillo’s graceful touch.
So enters the solo Louisiana, cursed from birth with sundering — a plague on her family since 1910 when her great-grandfather, a magician, had sawed her great-grandmother in half but refused to put her back together. “This, as you can imagine,” Louisiana tells us, “had disastrous and far-reaching consequences.”
Far-reaching in that every relationship our young heroine is exposed to — from her friendships with Raymie and Beverly, her granny and even with Archie, the King of the Cats, and Buddy, the one-eyed dog — will be tested, shattered and left in pieces that only a storyteller with DiCamillo’s skill could hope to reassemble.
Told with a touch of magic, a sense of folklore and fable, and destined to reach the tween, teen or adult in your life, “Louisiana’s Way Home” is not only a worthy successor to Raymie’s story, it stands alone on its own strengths and prompts the question, can Beverly’s tale be far behind?
We can always hope — DiCamillo again teaches us that.