"Ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett has only ever known the log cabins, orange dirt, and cotton fields of her small sharecropping community. But when Mama gets deathly ill, Ludelphia does something drastic-she leaves Gee's Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine badly, medicine that can only be found in Camden, over forty miles away. It's a dangerous journey, but Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make Mama proud, including documenting her journey-her story-in a new quilt for Mama as she goes along. In the end, Ludelphia's courageous adventure saves the day for Mama and all of Gee's Bend."
I was so impressed with every bit of Irene Latham's first book. From her characters, to the unique setting and the triumph-through-hardship theme, what we as readers have been given is an exquisite look into the life of Ludelphia and her family.
Not only are we able to learn about what it means to be a sharecropping family in the 1930's South, but also about quilting and the amount of heart, soul, and love that goes into the quilts these women and girls made. Gee's Bend, Alabama is a real place and though this particular story is fictional, it is inspired by the stories of people who actually lived there and experienced these events firsthand.
The writing is excellent and flowed so nicely that I felt comfort and hominess (yep, just made up that word now) while I was reading. I couldn't put Ludelphia's story down, reading all afternoon until I finished, having to know what happened to her and the rest of the Bennett family. And though the theme is something we've seen a hundred times, it's done in a refreshing and comforting way.
I loved the inclusion of Etta Mae and almost wished her part in the story was expanded. That's my idea for a sequel Ms. Latham, if you're reading! She was a great secondary character, but her own story is just screaming to be told.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
A great choice year-round, but a nice selection for Black History Month reading. Leaving Gee's Bend could be the jumping off point for so many different types of discussions, both in classrooms and with families at home. Writing was superb, characters were beautiful, and the love that went into this book is obvious on every page.
Leaving Gee's Bend
Middle Grade Fiction
Review copy received from publisher