Louisiana’s Way Home
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2018
“I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known, so that if someone were to stand at their window at night and look up at the stars and think, My goodness, whatever happened to Louisiana Elefante? Where did she go? They will have an answer. They will know. This is what happened. I will begin at the beginning.” —Louisiana Elefante
I may have literally screamed with excitement when I was approved to read the ARC of Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, my favorite author of all time.
I’ve read all of DiCamillo’s books, and I hold her middle grade novels among the best in the genre. As I write, my autographed copy of Raymie Nightingale (2016) is sitting on the desk next to me, looking so inconspicuous for a book that is filled with so much wonder and magic.
For those who were as riveted by Raymie’s story as I was, you will surely remember Louisiana Elefante, who, along with Beverly Tapinski and Raymie herself, were The Three Rancheros central to the story.
Kate DiCamillo has never before returned to a character from one of her novels, but she did in Louisiana’s Way Home. Her reasoning, as stated in the ARC, is this: “While I had no intention of writing another novel about those rancheros, Louisiana’s voice was so strong and insistent, and her need to tell her story was so profound, that I gave in.
And boy, am I ever glad that I did. I loved spending time with her again.”And boy, am I glad she did, too! While reading Louisiana’s story, she very quickly became one of my favorite DiCamillo characters of all time — right up there with India Opal Buloni from Because of Winn-Dixie. I also loved that just like with India Opal, DiCamillo tells Louisiana’s story in first-person, which only serves to strengthen the voice and heart of the character.
Louisiana takes place two years after Raymie ended, and the story begins with Louisiana’s granny waking her in the middle of the night so they can flee across the Florida-Georgia State Line. Perhaps the most important thing to know about Louisiana as the story unfurls is that there is a curse upon her head. But, as Louisiana discovers, there is more to life than curses and destiny. There are friendships, both old and new, there is family, both known and unknown, and there is hope. And where there is hope, there is light, and that light makes life just a little bit more bearable.
Louisiana’s story is not a happy one, but that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Life is messy, people are mean and sometimes lie, and friends and family aren’t always around when you need them. But there are twists and turns around every corner and fate and destiny are ours for the making. These are the lessons Louisiana learns, as she narrates her poignant, heartfelt journey toward lifting the curse upon her head and facing “the day of reckoning” as her granny calls it.
I’m so grateful to Kate DiCamillo for allowing us into Louisiana’s world again and for giving us this beautiful book full of magic, mystery, heartbreak, and hope. Louisiana’s story will be one that remains etched on my heart, and I will revisit it again and again.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Photo by Alisa Williams.