September 24, 2019

Beverly, Right Here

By Kate DiCamillo
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Sometimes characters continue speaking to their creators long after their books have been published, prompting authors to write unplanned follow-ups. Grateful readers will reap ample rewards in Kate DiCamillo’s Beverly, Right Here, the last in what has unexpectedly become a middle grade trilogy, which began with Raymie Nightingale and continued in Louisiana’s Way Home, about three irrepressible girls who meet at baton-twirling lessons in Lister, Florida, in 1975.

This installment, set in 1979, features the tough-as-nails, eye-rolling Beverly Tapinski, who is now 14. Following the death of her beloved dog, Beverly decides she’s had enough of life with her drunken mother and leaves, hitching a ride to nowhere with a good-for-not-much-else cousin. A big-hearted older woman named Iola welcomes Beverly into her trailer. Beverly slowly builds an anchoring friendship not only with Iola but with bullied, brilliant Elmer, who is about to leave for Dartmouth on a full scholarship.

Life with a ragtag bunch of strangers becomes much better but is still hardly perfect as Beverly, who hates fish, ends up working in a fish restaurant and eating tuna melts every day. A tormentor named Jerome lurks on the sidelines, and Beverly desperately misses Raymie and Louisiana.

DiCamillo’s genius is her ability to create such worlds without ever sugarcoating their gritty realities. “People were terrible to other people. That was the truth,” Beverly realizes. Yet amid life’s injustices, a fish restaurant waitress repeatedly urges Beverly to always dream big, and a cook named Doris stages a sit-down strike for better working conditions.

In the end, although Beverly realizes she can’t run away from her past or her neglectful mother, she learns that she doesn’t have to be held back by either one. Instead, she can seek her own springboards to happiness. As Iola says, “Oh, I’m glad I needed you. I’m glad you needed me.”

DiCamillo has described her trilogy as being about “becoming” and “the power of community.” Drawing each girl’s story with subtle yet bold strokes, DiCamillo delivers novels that feel both beautifully spare and deeply rich. With lovely reminders of the angels who help us all find our way in this sometimes unbearable world—as well as the enduring power of stories, kindness, hope and surprising possibilities—Beverly, Right Here completes DiCamillo’s superb trilogy, which is destined to remain a classic.

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Beverly, Right Here

Beverly, Right Here

By Kate DiCamillo
ISBN 9780763694647

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