We all learn, eventually, that there is a dramatic difference between running away from home and moving on.
But we don’t all learn this at age 14 — as does Beverly Tapinski, the heroine of Kate DiCamillio’s “Beverly, Right Here” (Candlewick Press), the sequel to the remarkable “Louisiana’s Way Home,” itself the sequel to the first in what developed as an unplanned coming-of-age trilogy, the National Book Award finalist “Raymie Nightingale.”
At the end of my review for DiCamillo’s second in the series, I wrote this: “‘Louisiana’s Way Home’ is not only a worthy successor to Ramie’s story, it stands alone in its own strengths and prompts the question, can Beverly’s tale be far behind? We can always hope” (https://bit.ly/2Qjj7F70).
This is Beverly’s story, and the hope that DiCamillo could again conjure an independent narrative voice for the third of the Three Rancheros was not misplaced. As with Rayme’s and Louisiana’s, there is magic in Beverly’s story.
Maybe, though, what is most magical is that DiCamillo can craft such fiction without resorting to the fantastic a la the trend of today. Blame it on Martin or Rowling — or go further back and fault Tolkien, Lewis, Le Guin or even Lloyd Alexander — but stories without magic paintings, wardrobes, walls or cauldrons and castles can be a tough sell to a young audience.
But not always, and DiCamillo shows us why.
As with the stories of Raymie and Louisiana, Beverly’s tale involves separation at the most human level: the family. As so, it ushers two questions: Can a broken family ever be mended? And if so, what might that look like?
DeCamillo did not win two Newbery Medals (“The Tale of Despereaux” and “Flora & Ulysses”) without knowing how to provide an answer to the likes of these.
After her dog, Buddy, dies, Beverly has nothing to keep her home. Her mother is an alcoholic and her best friends are no longer close at hand. The Three Rancheros have themselves been sundered and Beverly drifts away, “walking down A1A.”
At this point, it’s important to know that Beverly is well beyond her 14 years. She is a survivor who has learned, with the help of her friends, the value of friendship. She has learned that families come in flavors you don’t always choose but are palatable and even nutritious when there is love and loyalty and bonds between them.
And so, it is not remarkable that Beverly finds both a job clearing tables at a seafood restaurant and constructs a new family of misfits who somehow all fit together.
About those misfits — DiCamillo crafts a singular set of characters in Beverly’s story, and they will stay with you long after the end: Mr. C who owns the restaurant, the lonely Iola Jenkins, Doris, Freddie, Elmer and King Nod the cat because there must always be animals in a Kate DiCamillo novel.
Together, they may not form Beverly’s forever family, but they form the family she needs right now.
Within this temporary haven of unexpected stability, the fiercely independent Beverly will learn lessons to help move beyond survival and into maturity.
It is right here that Beverly will discover the importance of depending on others, and that trust and strength and dreams can be found even in the loss of those you love. And sometimes, as in this novel, only in that loss can these things be found.