When I wrote a review of Louisiana’s Way Home, I began, “Seldom do I like a sequel better than the first book, but I’ve found an exception.” I had jumped at the chance offered by Net Galley for an advance reading copy of that book where Kate DiCamillo revisits a previous novel for her protagonist. Now from the Three Rancheros friendship of Raymie, Beverly, and Louisiana in Raymie Nightingale, Kate returns to tell Beverly’s story, and again I read an advance reading copy of Beverly, Right Here from Net Galley focusing on the last of the trio.
This book, set four years after Raymie Nightingale, in August 1979, focuses on Beverly as the protagonist, but has an array of colorful secondary characters. Beverly has just buried her dog Buddy under the orange trees when she decides to leave home, claiming that is different from the times she ran away as a kid because now she will make it on her own. In a phone call effort to let her mother know she is okay, she notices words etched in the glass of the phone booth, “In a crooked little house by a crooked little sea,” that sounds to her like the beginning of a story. She is right.
Beverly is taken in by elderly Lola who has promised her children not to drive the Pontiac in her yard after she mixed up the forward and reverse and plowed into Bleeker’s Insurance building. She needs someone to take her to the VFW for bingo, seemingly as much as Beverly needs a place to stay. Beverly, who hates fish, winds up eating tuna melts with regularity because that’s what Lola knows how to fix, and busing tables in a fish lunch restaurant. Freddie, their only waitress, who may or may not be fair about splitting tips with her, assures her that dreaming big will get her into better things.
In spite of her fierce struggle to be independent of other people and to keep them from dependence on her, Beverly’s life wraps around her immediate community in the restaurant and around others she meets in the small town, including acne-faced Elmer who has plans to go to Dartmouth. Mixed throughout, she has things she knows she needs to write in a letter to Raymie.
I am left pondering which of the three books I really liked the best and thinking I may need a rerun to find out. So be forewarned, if you finish this book and have already read Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home, there may arise an uncontrollable urge to go back and read all three back to back. If you haven’t read the others, I highly recommend that you begin at the beginning and read them in order.