Saturday, December 15, 2007
Billie Standish Was Here
Crocker, Nancy. 2007. Billie Standish Was Here.
My name is Billie Standish. William Marie Standish. It's pretty clear what my parents' expectations were. The "Marie" was a nod to Daddy's mother because she died two months before I was born. Otherwise who knows? I might have been William Edward.
My parents were told at my birth that there would be no more babies. So you might say my name was down payment for using their one chance to have a son.
For a long time I was mostly invisible. That was okay, though. Once you've figured out you can't do anything right it's just good sense not to call undue notice your way. Why step out of the shadows and get yelled at for blocking somebody's light?
Besides, my mama's always had the kind of temper that gets the nearest dog kicked once in a while just for being there. Being invisible had its benefits. (1)
Billie's story begins in 1968. The summer of 1968. Set in Cumberland, a community Billie sums up in this way, "Nothing much bigger than a silent fart can get past the neighbors in a town this size." (3) It's been raining, and raining, and raining, and raining for weeks on end when our narrative opens. In fact, practically the whole town has deserted fearing the levee will break and the whole place be flooded, washed away. Everyone is gone, in fact, except for Billie's family and Miss Lydia Jenkins and her grown-up son, Curtis. That summer will be the best and worst in young Billie's life. Her friendship with Miss Lydia will change her life forever. The difference will be night and day. The joy, the hope, the love, the support, the inspiration. But her one encounter with Curtis will leave her with nightmares and scars that will take years to overcome.
This book has it all. Well-written, unforgettable characters, each one seemingly human and authentic. Charming narrative style. It has its ups and downs as far as drama goes. Showing that life is made of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, love and hate. But it is truly a beautiful, beautiful masterpiece. It just works. It's the kind of book that I finished and immediately wanted to read again. So far I've resisted the temptation. But it is something that I crave, that I want. I want to revisit Billie and Miss Lydia and Harlan. They're real to me. They're my friends. Their story is one that will stay with me.
I'm A Reading Fool's Booktalk of Billie Standish Was Here.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast's Interview with Nancy Crocker
Big A, Little A's review of Billie Standish Was Here