Reviews for Leaving Gee's Bend
Booklist Reviews 2010 February #1
In Gee's Bend, Alabama in 1932, 10-year-old Ludelphia's mother nearly dies giving birth. Ludelphia takes off downriver to find a doctor in the town of Camden, 40 miles away, and in her first journey away from her tiny village, she encounters white people for the first time. The hardship of African American sharecropper families is always present in this stirring historical debut, and so is the rich sense of community in rough times, although that community does include sometimes malicious local gossip. Inspired by her mama, Ludelphia stitches together a quilt that tells her story, and that intricate process of quilt making sometimes becomes a too-heavy metaphor. Still, Ludelphia's voice is authentic and memorable, and Latham captures the tension of her dangerous journey and the racism she encounters when a white, mentally disturbed landowner's widow takes everything from the sharecroppers as repayment for their debt. In a final note, Latham talks about the history of Gee's Bend and its rich quilting traditions. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2010 January
Steps on a perilous journey
Ludelphia Bennett has quilting in her fingertips, her heart and her brain. Her 10 years of life have been both a challenge and a joy. Blind in one eye and wearing a patch, Lu works alongside her mother and father caring for the animals and fields they sharecrop. Her closest companion is Delilah, her beloved mule. Lu’s family lives in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, far from any town or city or signs of modernity, but not far from the ravages of the Great Depression.
When Lu’s mother is on the edge of death following the birth of a daughter, the young girl makes a rash decision that changes her life and the lives of the people of Gee’s Bend. Tucking her quilting in her pocket, Lu decides to trek to Camden, the nearest town, where she hears there is a doctor who might help her ailing mother. Lu’s journey, like most heroic quests, brings her face-to-face with strange folks and new situations that will test her and change her.
Running like a solid thread through this captivating novel are the words of Lu’s mother, spoken while she taught her daughter about quilting. Lu has learned that a quilt needs to be balanced and that, if you make a mistake with color or stitching, you need to take the quilt apart and start again. Look for fabric wherever you are, even in the home of a crazed white woman who holds your fate, and the fate of all the folks of Gee’s Bend, in her hand. Tell your story through your quilt.
Irene Latham stitches a beautiful word quilt of her own with Leaving Gee’s Bend, which is based on the real history of the community. There was a time when the owner’s wife foreclosed on all the residents of the Bend, taking all their animals and tools as collateral, leaving them unable to farm or cook. And the Red Cross really did step in and save the settlement. Today the stunning Gee’s Bend quilts are shown in exhibits around the world. Latham has looked behind the genius of their handiwork and told a tale that will stay with the reader forever—just like a quilt.
Robin Smith is stitching an improvisational quilt, inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend. Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett lives in an obscure pocket of Alabama called Gee's Bend. After her mother becomes gravely ill, Ludelphia decides to leave home for the first time, encountering unexpected dangers in search of medicine. Based on firsthand accounts of a 1932 raid on Gee's Bend, Latham's gripping story benefits from her eye for detail and Ludelphia's compelling narration. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 December #2
In 1932 Gee's Bend, ten-year-old Ludelphia thinks clearest while stitching, so when her mother becomes deathly ill, Ludelphia takes along a quilt top as she crosses the river to get help. She is oddly fixated on her stitching and delays her life-saving journey repeatedly to work the quilt, even to the point of incorporating her pocket in it, which requires her to carry it in her hand for the rest of the trip. Though it seems Latham is trying to develop an engagingly absentminded or single-minded character, Ludelphia comes off instead as dense, and the constant returning to the quilt is an authorial artifice. The story depends on Ludelphia's development and voice to carry it, other characters and the setting remaining one-dimensional. The author describes being inspired to tell this story after seeing the exhibit "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" and notes sources for her research. She's taken liberties in depicting real people and events, which is permissible in fiction, but still regrettable when done poorly. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 January/February
Ludelphia Bennet is a ten-year-old African American girl growing up in 1932 Gee?s Bend, Alabama. In this isolated area the families all work as sharecroppers, living below the poverty level. When her mother is sick with a cough and fever, Ludelphia goes to get the white doctor to help. Ludelphia learns of courage, love, loss, fear, discrimination, hope, and more as she travels through the white section, seeking assistance for her family. Ludelphia is identified as a witch by the very family she thought would help her, and it is the knowledge of white people fearing her that eventually enables Ludelphia to save Gee?s Bend. Although similar to other tales set in small towns, this is different in its focus on a female protagonist and witchcraft. The strong tale of hope and survival will encourage female readers to enjoy other well-known works such as Bud Not Buddy (Delacorte Press, 1999) and Sounder (Harper & Row, 1969). Recommended. Sara Rofofsky Marcus, Electronic Resources/Web Librarian, Queensborough Community College, Bayside, New York ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 January #2
Debut author Latham offers an accessible piece of historical fiction, drawn from the real-life quilting traditions of Gee's Bend, Ala. Ludelphia Bennett--a strong-willed 10-year-old living in the small sharecropping community in 1932--may be blind in one eye, the result of a wood-chopping accident, but she both adores and excels at quilting. "Mama always said you should live a life the same way you piece a quilt," she says. "That you was the one in charge of where you put the pieces. You was the one to decide how your story turns out." When her mother falls ill, Ludelphia takes off for Camden to find medical help, while trying to avoid Mrs. Cobb, the widow of the sharecroppers' boss, who has become unstable after the deaths of her husband and niece. Latham offers numerous heart-stirring moments, though while her story is heartfelt, several characters feel lacking in depth and complexity. Ludelphia is a determined heroine, but her internal monologue--"Mama, if this here needle can make it across the Alabama River, you can make it too"--tends toward the treacly. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) [Page 48]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2010 January
Gr 4-6--Blind in one eye and shouldering a fair share of work as part of a family of sharecroppers, 10-year-old Ludelphia Bennett is no stranger to hardship or determination. Though her small town of Gee's Bend is geographically isolated by the Alabama River, she sets off on her own to Camden, 40 miles away, to find a doctor for her sick mother. Constant throughout her arduous journey is a stitched-together fabric, and she both physically and mentally chronicles her experiences as she pieces a quilt together. This is the way Ludelphia tells her story, of seeing white people for the first time, of encountering kindness and hate, and it is also the way Latham pays homage to the community spirit that historically fostered a heritage of artisan quilt-makers. While there is a bit of a reliance on coincidence, what shines through is the characterization and sense of place. Rural Alabama of 1932 is brought to life, complete with characters' prejudices and superstitions that are eventually overcome thanks to Ludelphia's indomitable strength. Here is a story that is comforting and warm, just like the quilts that make Gee's Bend famous.--Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library [Page 106]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2010 February
"Mama always said every quilt tells a story," ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett says. When Mama gets sick and Daddy becomes distracted with taking care of her and their newborn daughter, Ludelphia slips away from home determined to travel forty miles from Gee's Bend, Alabama, to Camden where she hopes to find Doc Nelson willing and able to save Mama. As Ludelphia travels--armed with needle, thread, and the beginnings of a quilt--she is faced with one obstacle after another before she finally makes it to Doc Nelson's home. Although Mrs. Nelson is in the middle of conducting a Red Cross Drive designed to help those suffering during the depression, she still manages to make Ludelphia feel at home and tries to console her when Doc Nelson says Mama probably has pneumonia, a disease he cannot treat An author's note explains that Latham, influenced by her love of textile art, became fascinated by Gee's Bend and its renowned quilts. Some readers might enjoy this coming-of-age tale set in a rural community featuring a spunky girl with one eye. Omight have trouble connecting with Ludelphia because her closest friend is a mule named Delilah, and she has never had a Coke. Much of the book seems contrived, especially the secondary plot involving accusations that Ludelphia's neighbor, Etta Mae, is a witch and the story line that involves Mrs. Cobb, the woman who owns the land Ludelphia's family and friends work on.--KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson 3Q 4P M J Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.