Sunday, April 13, 2008

Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

Billie is an eleven year old girl . Her parents are distant and cold, when they acknowledge her it is usually to find fault. She's got no friends, no one really to speak of. Until the day she wakes up and the entire town is gone...literally. Everyone packed up and left. It turns out the levee might break and her parents and one other woman are the only people who decided to stay and see it out. Billie is befriended by Miss Lydia, the elderly lady who has also decided to stay. This is a life changing event, a friendship that will alter Billie's life forever, for both good and bad.

The good is that Miss Lydia is a spitfire and is able to slowly show Billie that she's a worthy human being. The bad is that their friendship brings Billie to the attention of Miss Lydia's no good adult son who brutally rapes her. From other reviews I knew that this was a pivotal event in the book. And it is for this reason that I didn't pick up the book until I had to (it is nominated for the TAYSHAS Award 2009-2010) because frankly a story where a major plot point is the rape of an eleven year old girl seemed like a major downer to me and frankly no fun at all to read about. Its proof of how good the writing is that the book is so much more than this.

The writing is exemplary, I particularly loved the description:
"That day every house I passed looked to be abandoned. Dingy little boxes, most of them needing fresh white occasional outburst of aluminum siding in some color that would startle God."
The writing really spoke to me. The character development was also superb. We see Billie develop from excelling at invisibility to survive her difficult childhood to grow into a strong, intelligent woman. Miss Lydia is an amazing mentor, one whom occasionally seems a bit too good to be true, but nevertheless won my heart from the start and cemented my adoration when she solves the problem of her miscreant son. Billie Standish deals with weighty issues of abuse, survival, healing, and the difference friendship can make. It is a beautiful novel that will surprise you.

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