It’s amazing how Kate DiCamillo succeeds time and again in wrapping her life’s theme in fairytale-sentimental stories that turn from gloom to hopeful at the end. The American author (“Winn Dixie”, “Despereaux”, “Edward Tulane”) transforms experiences of pain, loneliness, separation and loss into small literary surprises in which her suffering heroines or heroes find people after a long journey through threatening climes accept them as lovable creatures despite the inner conflict of the seekers.
It was the same in DiCamillo’s novel “Little Miss Florida” from 2016. He told of the friendship between three girls. The most unfortunate of them, the ten-year-old Louisiana Elefante, won a talent competition at the end and secured herself and her granny a living for a while. Well, in the follow-up story “Louisiana’s Way Home” the girl is twelve years old and with her grandmother in a rattle box from Florida on the run from unspecified dark elements. The year is 1977. There seems to be a curse on Louisiana and her grandmother. The parents – high wire artists drowned in the sinking of an ocean liner. Granny’s father – a gifted magician – disappeared, never to be seen again, immediately after sawing up his wife on the stage, but not putting them back together. And now Granny apparently wants to fulfill a mission that will lead her to the source of the curse, in a small town in Nebraska.
The two are stranded with empty tanks in a small town in Georgia. End of the road movie. Granny is incapacitated after radical dental surgery. Meanwhile, the girl encounters strange people in wondrous milieus, whom one already knows from other DiCamillo’s books. A boy with a tame crow on the roof of a motel. Life-marked, disgruntled, but also kind people who all try more or less successfully to cope with their everyday lives. In the first-person narrator Louisiana, the fear that she is alone in the world is slowly growing, but at the same time the realization is growing that only she can help herself.
These are not necessarily spectacular insights. How, however, Kate DiCamillo – again translated fluently into German by Sabine Ludwig – combines the events into a fantastically realistic narrative, with a lot of atmosphere, with humor, surprising turns and a high symbolic content, that characterizes the story in which Louisiana finally finds home , even if this home looks completely different from what she had dreamed of. (from 10 years)
Kate DiCamillo: Louisiana’s way home. Translated from the English by Sabine Ludwig. dtv, Munich 2020. 208 pages, 12.95 euros.