Reviewed June 19, 2015.
Amistad (HarperCollins), 2015. 293 pages.
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Children's Fiction
This is Rita Williams-Garcia's third book about the Gaither sisters, growing up in 1960s America. The first book, One Crazy Summer, had them in Oakland, with their mother who left them when they were small. The second book, P. S. Be Eleven, saw them back home in Brooklyn, as their father was falling in love with a new woman. This book has them visiting their grandmother Big Ma in Alabama, where she lives in the home of Ma Charles, their great-grandmother, across the creek from their great-great aunt Miss Trotter.
I loved the first book, but wasn't as enamored with the second. I think I love this book best of all, and have been completely won over again by these sisters.
Gone Crazy in Alabama is a family story, a sisters story. As Delphine and her two younger sisters squabble, so does Ma Charles squabble with her half-sister. The two haven't spoken to each other in years, but they exchange barbs through the words of a willing Vonetta.
The girls learn about their messy heritage, getting a different slant as their great grandmother and great-great-aunt each tell it. They've got a handsome cousin living across the creek, a cousin who tends cows and dreams of being a pilot and has lived through his own horrible tragedy.
I still love the way Rita Williams-Garcia portrays the sisters. Delphine, the responsible one, is always trying to look out for her younger sisters, but the ways she does that are not often welcome. Each girl has her own distinctly lovable personality, though there's plenty of realistic rivalry between the sisters.
And lots of laughter -- this novel is infused with humor throughout, mainly by the crazy and realistic quirks of human nature.
When a great crisis occurs at the end of the book, it pulls everyone in Delphine's big crazy family together.
I love the overall theme of walking through the storm.
Such a wonderful book! You can get away with reading this book without reading its predecessors, but a history with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern will make it all the better.