Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

  • **2010 Debut Author Challenge List**
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (January 7, 2010)

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won't help. Thatas when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic--leave Geeas Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn't stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other.
What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town.
Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Geeas Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee's Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world.
MY REVIEW: The description above sums up what the novel is about. What is missing is the experience you have reading this book. It took me a few hours to read this and Lu's story pretty much takes place over a span of a few days. Latham's writing really captures the spirit of the old South, in the way she compares the color of Lu's mother's skin to the bottom of an acorn or the way the patches of material for her beloved quilting each hold a piece of a bigger story. As soon as Lu begins narrating the reader is taken back in time and I felt as if everything was unfolding before my eyes.
The story is an easy read and it's words and message are powerful. Lu, 10,  is a girl filled with spunk and determination. She wants to help her sick mama and decides to take the ferry across the river to Camden and fetch the doctor. It is through her eye (her other eye was damaged by a piece of hickory tree) we see the surrounding world and how different it is from the sharecroppers' small town full of hardships and trying times. Throughout all of Lu's experiences she always has her needle and strips of fabric to stitch on. We learn that community, despite the short-sightedness of some and the great hearts of others, is what keeps this special group of people together. 

This book is special. I really liked it and thought it was well written and the pacing was wonderful. As the story grew more exciting I felt my fingers turning the pages while my eyes gobbled up Lu's words. Highly recommended.
FAVORITE SECTION: (From page 37): ""You got to breathe, baby!" I said as I used the bright orange corner of the Housetop quilt to rub firm circles against the small chest till finally the baby sputtered and coughed. Etta Mae real quick pulled the baby up to her shoulder and banged her hand against the baby's back. Then the baby began to squall.
I ain't never heard a sound as good as that one. This baby wasn't like all them other ones. This baby was alive."
COVER COMMENT: I thought it was okay, simple picture of the back of a girl walking barefoot down a dirt road. But after reading so much about fabric, material, stitching and quilting I really wanted to see the quilt Lu created to tell the story of this book.
RATING: ++++
FOR FANS OF: Historical novels.
BOOK SOURCE: International Book Tours.
REVIEWED BY: Caitlin and Laurie


  1. Caitlin and Laurie - thank you so much for reading and reviewing! Lu is a special girl living in a special place and time, and it always pleases me to "meet" others who get that. So thank you! And, if you'd like ot send me your snail mail address(es) to irene at irenelatham dot com, I would love to send you a little something "Gee's Bend."