For What It's Worth

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

REVIEW: Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

Leaving Gee's Bend
"Mama always said every quilt tells a story. Every piece of cloth, every stitch and every bit of cotton stuffed between the seams tells a secret about the one who made the quilt." - Ludelphia Bennett
Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but that doesn't mean she can't put in a good stitch. In fact, Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things are going wrong. But when Mama gets deathly ill, it doesn't seem like even quilting will help. Mama needs medicine badly - medicine that can only be found in Camden, over forty miles away. That's when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic - leave Gee's Bend.
Beyond the log cabins, orange dirt, and cotton fields of her small sharecropping community, Ludelphia discovers a world she could never have imagined. Fancy houses, cars, and even soda pop! But there's also danger lurking for a young girl on her own, and Ludelphia begins to wonder if she'll ever see Gee's Bend or her Mama again. Despite the twists and turns, Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mama proud, and may even save the day not just for Mama, but her entire town.
Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee's bend, Alabama, LEAVING GEE'S BEND is a heart-touching tale of a young girl's unexpected adventure. Midgrade - Ages 9-12

I have to be honest here, I had no interest in reading this book. I did however issue a challenge to myself to read and review all the books from the class of 2k10 so I downloaded Gee's Bend to my kindle and there it has sat - unread - since January. I usually don't like reading period books and I have next to no interest in sewing or quilting.
But that's the beauty of books, sometimes they take you somewhere you didn't even know you wanted to go.
10 year old Ludelphia embarks on a journey outside of Gee's Bend to find a doctor to save her mother after a difficult childbirth. She is a child of sharecroppers, only has one eye and has never seen anything outside her small community. She encounters automobiles, coca cola and white people for the very first time. Along the way she collects scraps of fabric to make into a quilt to bring her mother to tell the story of her adventure.
Again, this is not my typical type of story but I did find myself enjoying Ludelphia's discoveries, sometimes interpreting them as only a 10 year old child could. I kept thinking of Laura Ingalls Wilder while reading this. It's told with that type of childlike wonderment and practicality of people who don't have a lot but appreciate the things they do have.
The story also gave me a new appreciation for the quilts that my husband's grandmother made for all four of her grandchildren before she died. She had saved all the fabric from sheets, pajamas and other clothing from their childhood. I think I have a better of understanding of what making those quilts meant to her.
Loved: Ludelphia - she was simple and sweet and I couldn't help but root for her.
Nitpick: I think the story could have delved a little deeper in tone about racism, poverty and other issues for that period.

Rating: 3 out of 4. Sweet story. A nice introduction to history and quilting for children, although I wish it delved a little deeper into the issues of that era.

Author's website: Irene Latham
Follow Irene on Twitter @Irene_Latham
Buy the book: Leaving Gee's Bend
Irene is a member of the a group of YA and Mid-Grade debut authors.


  1. Hi Karen - thank you so much for your review of Leaving Gee's Bend. I'm honored that you read it, esp. as it's out of your normal reading interests. If you'd like to send me your snailmail address to irene at irenelatham dot come, I would love to send you a little something "Gee's Bend." :)

  2. Great review, Karen!! What a very nice story about your husband's grandmother. I actually have this book b/c I've been really interested in reading it. If you liked it and weren't even sure about it, I think I will probably enjoy it.

  3. You are a great auther. I love your book, "Leaving Gee,s Bend". I go to Fairview Elementary School.

    Love, Abigail Hutchison