Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com
It's been a long time since Tom Weems has been to the mountain holler they call home. A lot has changed since his accident. Grandma Horace has moved up from the city, but it seems like all she does is argue with everyone. With ten kids to feed and clothe, even Grandma Horace's money doesn't stretch very far. All of the kids who can are doing their best to contribute. Emmett's off with their great uncle working at the new amusement park. He sends back whatever money Uncle Buddy doesn't "borrow." Livy Two is sure that she could sell some of the songs she's been writing, if she could only get the address for the man who used to read her Daddy's songs. She's also sure that her sister, Louisiana, could sell some paintings, if only she wasn't so shy.
When Daddy comes home all of the kids expect things will go back to normal. But, Daddy isn't quite the same Daddy he was before. He doesn't seem to remember much of anything. He gets words confused a lot and he won't even touch his banjo. He has a radio playing in his head that no one else can hear. He's not even living in the house. They fixed up an old shed for him to stay in. Louise painted it for him.
Louisiana would much rather stay at home and paint and help Daddy than go to school. It's not something Livy Two really gets, but she's very protective of her sister. In fact, until recently, Livy Two was Louise's only friend. But now she's made a new friend, and Livy Two isn't quite sure how to feel about it.
She doesn't have a whole lot of time to worry, since Grandma is trying to convince their mom to move them all into the city. Between that, Daddy, Emmett being gone, Louise's new life, and talk about sending Gentle away to a special school for the blind, Livy Two doesn't think her life will ever be quite right again.
This is quite simply and beautifully a story about life. It's set in a very specific place and time, but you slide into that space so easily. After reading this for a few hours straight, cars and microwaves were quite a shock! Life isn't always about huge moments, sometimes it's just smaller things, one after another. And you just keep going. It's how you go, and the attitude you have that shows the world who you are. This book is about Louisiana, through Livy Two's eyes, and it speaks volumes for both of them.