When I was in high school, my great grandmother was placed into a nursing home. Almost weekly, my mom and I went to visit her. She had Alzheimer’s so our visits weren’t filled with conversations. I paced the halls of the LifeCare Center holding my great grandmother’s hand, even though she seemed to have no idea who I was or why I was walking with her. Over those many visits, I came to know many of the residents at LifeCare and their many quirks. It was strange how even as an introvert I was drawn to certain people who maybe were some of the most risky of residents. One of those residents was Florence. She was from New York, and you heard her before you ever saw her. She shouted out, “Hey!” over and over. The workers at LifeCare seemed to have reached a point where her repeated shouting of the same word was tuned out, but I always heard it. While it scared me, I was also intrigued by her, and I remember many instances where despite my fear of being hit, grabbed, or pushed, I chatted with Florence. I think more than anything she just wanted someone to listen to her, to acknowledge that she existed in the world.
As I read Raymie Nightengale, I came to the scene in the Golden Glen retirement home where Raymie encounters a resident who repeatedly says, “Take my hand”, and I was thrust back in time to my own fears, curiosities, and empathy from my many days in the LifeCare Center. I don’t know how she does it, but Kate DiCamillo seems to always write words that speak to my soul. Her words are powerful and link to personal connections or goals in my own life. As I read Raymie, I closed the book at the end of every chapter, hugged the book to my chest, and said, “How does she do it?”.
I know what we hold in our hands is the final version of a story that has grown and morphed many times. I know there are probably many moments of intense thought, hair pulling, tears, joy, and time spent in the writing chair. Many eyes have looked at these words before they reach the reader, but the final words on the page are powerful. They are concise, yet they bring out the complexities of 3 girls and many unforgettable characters who are very different yet are connected to one another at the same time.
I love Ida Nee and her tell-it-like-it is attitude of not putting up with any nonsense
I love Beverly who is rough around the edges but has a kind heart inside.
I love Louisiana who is innocent and naive as she wrestles with the challenges of poverty.
I love Mrs. Borkowski and her ability to brush off just about anything with a “Phhhhtttt.”
I love Raymie and her strength in making a plan to bring her family back together yet recognizing when she needs to help others along the way.
As I read Raymie, I took a pen and underlined words that spoke to my heart. It seems that no matter which Kate DiCamillo book I read, there’s a line that resonates with me that I tend to carry with me wherever I go. In Flora and Ulysses, it ended up being a line that inspired our library motto and blog title of expecting the miraculous.
There are many lines in Raymie. I’ll leave them here without any interpretation for now. These lines are still sitting with me, speaking to me, and finding their place in my life.
“She herself often felt to terrified to go on, but she had never admitted it out loud.” p. 2
“…this made everything she said seem ridiculous, but also possible–both things at the same time.” p. 10
“The sun is nothing but a dying star. Someday it will go out. Phhhhtttt.” p. 22
“Fear is a big waste of time. I’m not afraid of anything.” p. 79
“…stand as if you value yourself and your place in the world.” p. 82
“And I wanted to tell you that no matter what, I’m here and you’re here and we’re here together.” p. 154
I invite you to find your own lines that speak to your heart by picking up a copy of Raymie Nightingale starting Tuesday April 12th at your local bookstore. My copy will be waiting for me at Avid Bookshop, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. Even if this book isn’t the one that creates a personal connection for you, I hope you’ll keep searching for an author and a book that has lines that speak to your soul.