This is a first person narrative, told in the original and quirky voice of 12 year-old Louisiana Elefante as she writes her story in a notebook, just in case anyone is wondering what happened to her. It is written in an interesting style, of short sentences and short chapters which leave you almost as breathless as Louisiana when her lungs get “swampy”.
It starts with her setting off on a 3am road trip with her Granny, heading to Georgia from Florida in order to outrun the “sundering curse” which is on the heads of their family. The adventure starts to go wrong from the start as they run out of petrol and then Granny is struck by terrible toothache. Louisiana’s recount of her exploits as she takes the wheel of the car to drive her Granny to the nearest town in search of a dentist is quite hilarious. It becomes apparent as they reach town, that Granny and Louisiana live by their wits, and Granny is not the most trustworthy individual.
I don’t want to give any plot spoilers, but there is quite a shocking plot twist about half-way through the book. Louisiana reacts by writing the following in her notebook:
“But here is the thing: it did not feel to me like the earth was moving infinitesimally. It felt like it was hurtling and jerking its way through a lonely darkness.”
Fortunately, Louisiana has met a local boy called Burke Allen, someone so kind that “if you ask him for something he will give you two.” While Louisiana is questioning who she is, Burke is the son of Burke Allen and the grandson of Burke Allen. He and his family are completely certain of who they are, and they represent absolute kindness. Along with the Reverend Obertask they teach the eponymous heroine that “we all at some point have to decide who we want to be in this world.”
I really enjoyed this story, it is the first book by Kate DiCamillo that I have read and I can see why she is a prize winning author, the interesting writing style was utterly believable as the thoughts of a 12 year-old trying to find her place in the world. The plot twist that I mentioned earlier could upset younger readers; this book should probably be shared with an adult with whom the story can be discussed. An interesting story for mature readers of 10 and above.