Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because of Winn Dixie

Second book in my 52 Books A Year was Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie. I was having trouble sleeping and thought it was the prefect time to indulge in something a little sweet. Admitingly today wasn't a great day. I was feeling lonely. So I thought a little pick-me-up was in order.

Unlike DiCamillo's previous book for children The Tale Of Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie is a realistic tale of ten year old India Opal and her stray-turned-best-friend dog she names Winn Dixie after the local shop. Both are new to town that summer and with Winn Dixie's smile and Opal's friendliness they quickly shuffle around town striking up friendships and filling the hole where Opal's abandoning mother should be.

First they meet ex-convict Otis who works at the local pet store. He's no criminal but a gentle soul with a gift for guitar. Then they meet the librarian Miss Franny Block who tells them the story of her great grandfather who fought in the American Civil War,and the story of how he came home to find his family dead (yes, all of them kaput) and how he walked to Flordia to fill the world with sweetness; the result was a hard candy with the secret ingredient of sadness. Which is sad! So sad. In fact, at this point I'm thinking DeCamillo went out of her way here to make this story melancholy. Then she meets a girl whose brother drowned the year before, whose face is always 'pinched'. They also meet the local witch, who isn't a witch at all but an old woman going blind. Opal fills up the hole her mother left in her heart with all her new friends, but the lines of sorrow still mark the breaks.

The writing is as simple and succinct as always. There's beautiful relationships formed and passages about the ghosts that haunt us and the horribleness of life are are a little sentimental but also tender. The story does redeem itself so that a semi-happy ending is given to the reader like a Littmus Lozenge, sweet yet sad.

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