Gees Bend, Alabama, circa 1932, as depicted in Irene Latham's novel, sounds rather like one such town. Physically isolated, its people psychologically isolated, its economy chronically stagnant, Gees Bend is the kind of town that almost any responsible parent would encourage his adult children to forsake at the first opportunity.
Standing amid the sad milieu that is Gees Bend is Ludelphia Bennett. Blind in one eye, this 10-year old sharecropper from a family of sharecroppers has known only hard work, hardship, and determination born of near-desperation. One day that determination is tested like never before when she sets out alone for Camden to find a doctor for her grievously sick mother. Though Camden is only 40 miles away, it might as well be on a different planet, so different is it from the world Ludelphia has known. This tale explores the interconnections among situationally compelled travel, cultural difference, and psychological growth, and does so in ways both well told and inspirational, and accessible to young adult readers.
Irene Latham is the award-winning author of two novels for children, the aforementioned Leaving Gee's Bend (Putnam/Pengui, 2010) and Don't Feed the Boy (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012) and two volumes of poetry, The Color of Lost Rooms and What Came Before. She lives with her husband and three sons in Birmingham, Alabama.
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