Eleven-year-old Livie is terrified when her father insists that they bring her comatose mother home from the hospital. How can she look at, much less touch and care for, Mamma when she alone knows that she caused her illness? As Mamma continues to languish in bed, Livie grows more and more estranged from her family, a chasm that begins to close only after she gathers her courage to visit the local traiteur, who gives her the formula for a healing spell. As Livie collects the spell's necessary ingredients, she begins to open up to the knowledge that she is loved and cherished by her family.
The first word that came to my mind to describe this was "rich." The book was rich in emotion, rich in culture and setting, and rich in characters. Watching the family pull together and break apart through Livie's eyes took me through a myriad of emotions. The characters are so deftly drawn that they became real to me, heightening that emotional connection.
The landscape of the book-- the Lousiana bayou-- is delicious. I'm a sucker for stories with a strong, unique setting, and this one was perfect. The setting didn't just exist; it became another character as Livie and the rest of the family interacted with their world. It made the world more real for me, and took it beyond the basic family story into a place that was unique and enthralling.
I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to bask in the afterglow of an original, emotional contemporary middle-grade. And, if you're interested in my writer's perspective on the book, you can find it here.