Louisiana’s Song, by Kerry Madden; Viking
Children’s Books: New York, 2007; $16.99
“We just keep walking but going nowhere.” This statement, spoken by Livy Two, the main character in Louisiana’s Song, explains the children’s difficulty in reconnecting to their father after his car accident. The car accident leaves him without any memory of his family and his past. This situation gives the Weems family an unexpected opportunity to discover what matters most in their family and in their mountain holler.
The Weems family is growing up in rural North Carolina in 1963 and life is anything but easy. When their father, who was involved in a serious car accident, comes home pale, thin, and listless in the back of an old pickup truck, he doesn’t look like a man anyone knows. Hope only remains in a few hearts, like Louisiana’s. Louise, as her family calls her, is convinced that Daddy has the power to get better, and just as she sees the shades of blue in her paintings, she sees the light of hope in her father. Together, Louise and Livy Two make a powerful team, but some things just can’t be fixed without magic, like Daddy. Then again, other things can.
Trouble is in store for the Weems as their money supply vanishes, and the older children are forced to find jobs, including Louise, the artist of the family, who is shy and tall, forever longing to get out her brushes and paint, leaving the rest of her complicated world behind. Louise too knows the true meaning of hardship, and with Livy Two by her side, she takes life into her own hands and gathers enough courage to paint portraits on the street for strangers, beginning to sing a song of her own.
As Louisiana ponders her own complicated world, I as the reader have questions too. The whole time I read Louisiana’s Song, I found myself thinking the same thing over and over: why does tragedy always strike in the most powerful and meaningful books? I wondered why, in the many books I’ve read that have affected me to the level that Louisiana’s Song did, why was there always a tragic death or accident that changed the characters’ lives and personalities forever? I am almost sure that I’ve found an answer. Books must use tragedy to reveal life more openly, and help people understand our world today is full of things that may not be noticed, but once they are, change your perspective on something forever. For example, in Louisiana’s Song, readers get to see how a tiny miracle can feel like so much when the Waterrock Knob tragedy strikes, something that wouldn’t have been possible without a catastrophe earlier in the book. Also, I feel like in this book in particular, I have a relationship with the characters that goes far beyond the pages of this book. At first, Louise seems like an average character, confined to just one type, but as you read on, her personality and the personalities of all the characters emerge and become more complicated. I was even shocked to see how they were all full of surprises when I had started to think this was just a regular book.
Livy Two’s voice as narrator will always stay with me, and when times get tough, I’ll remember Louise, naming the shades of blue. I think that Louisiana’s Song has helped me to understand both literature and the world a little bit better, and I’m positive that this book will do the same to you.