A Review of Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Louisiana’s Way Home’
Kate DiCamillo beautifully captures the surreal confusion of growing up and facing difficult realities in her new novel Louisiana’s Way Home, an affectionate story of family, forgiveness and growth approaching modern fairytale.
Louisiana’s Way Home is a self-explanatory title, as the book follows Louisiana, a character first seen in DiCamillo’s previous title Raymie Nightingale, as she grapples with a series of drastic changes and the question of home when her caretaker, Granny, absconds across state lines with Louisiana in tow. Separated from her house, friends and cat Archie, Louisiana begrudgingly accompanies Granny to Georgia, where she is then presented with hard truths and even harder decisions.
The strength and weight of this story is found in the expertly crafted first-person perspective of Louisiana. DiCamillo artfully discloses enough information through the childlike interpretations of the settings by Louisiana, allowing the reader to make inferences while still maintaining control of the narrative. The perspective also allows for a youthfully profound and lyrically consistent train of thought that never drags and leaves the reader wanting to hear more of Louisiana’s musings and dreams.
This story has a host of interesting and dynamic secondary characters, most notably, Granny, a cunning, yet loving old woman who has taught Louisiana her worldliness as well as her charm. The interactions Louisiana has with the other characters inhabiting the settings she is thrust into are all unique, and her reactions to others are telling of her character.
DiCamillo crafts the story very fittingly into what reads like a fairytale but remains realistic, striking a balance between mysticisms and what can be expected from a child’s narration of their own story. There are multiple aspects of the story that provide for a fairytale feeling, including what could be considered magical characters, Burke and Clarence. Burke, a friend Louisiana makes at the hotel Granny has scammed for a room, has the ability to grant Louisiana anything she wants for free, as long as it’s from the hotel vending machine (which he has a way of cheating). Clarence is Burke’s animal friend, a crow that follows him everywhere and seems to Louisiana an all-wise being. These two provide Louisiana companionship and advice throughout the novel.
Another fairytale aspect of the story comes from the woods where Burke lives with his family. The woods prove both a source of conflict and resolution as Louisiana gets lost in them and eventually is found by Burke’s father, who brings her to their home.
All of these things blend together to create a narrative that is absolutely endearing and heartbreaking in its duality of youthful naivety and dark undertones of poverty and vagrancy.
Louisiana’s Way Home is one of our 2018 Fall/Winter Reads. View the full reading list here.