better together.

*author’s note* This is a review I wrote for Goodreads back in March, and I just realized I never added or posted about the read here. So here are my feelings on a reread of a childhood classic, Up A Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt.  I’m back-dating this, so if you feel confused about where this came from, that’s why.

I first read this book in high school, when I found it while shelving books at the public library (I have that job to thank for so many favorite reads!) and I’m sure I read it 5 times between then and graduating from college. I just reread this book for the first time since college this past week, and was not disappointed.
This book is sweet, sincere and touching.  It tells of  Julie’s innocent, earnest journey from confused seven-year-old to confident seventeen-year-old. In short, manageable chunks we observe her struggles with her very similar and strong-willed guardian, her struggles to feel loved, her first boyfriend and subsequent understanding of the difference between love and enabling. What I like about it the most, though, is the reliance on family, functional or dysfunctional.
Julie’s family supports Aunt Cordelia through her first meeting in years with the boy who broke her heart. Cordelia gently asks about Julie’s father’s feelings when considering where Julie should stay through high school. The joy when Julie recovers from the scar of first love lost. Julie’s consideration of her niece’s feelings.

Maybe because my family is so important and vital to me, I understand how you can love the very things about your family that drive you crazy, and how precious it is to have a family when the road we walk is sad or confusing. They don’t always do the right thing, but sometimes the littlest gesture is the one we remember for years.

I cried this read-through, in that very early chapter where Julie is crying inconsolably in the closet and Cordelia crawls in and holds her and cries with her. When I came home for Thanksgiving right after Cori died, I got into my parents water bed and went to sleep. When I woke up, my sisters were there, one on each side, and we just cried and talked quietly, remembering when Cori visited and just being together. I love this book because it reminds me of moments like that, when being a family is what’s holding you together, imperfections and all.

Wow. Um. I don’t know if this is a coherent review at all, but I feel like I should mention one more thing. One of the main negatives mentioned in other reviews about this book is Aunt Cordelia’s statement that a woman becomes a woman when she loves a man. Perhaps, being a bit on the old-fashioned side, I don’t find fault with this because I agree with her, but I think this statement is more than just an strong support of marriage. This statement is made in a context of not just love, but of self-sacrificing love. Not love that annihilates an entity, but a gracious love like that of Cordelia for Jonathan, a love that encompasses his frail, dying wife and supports him long after her hope of being his wife herself has died. I don’t think Cordelia is suggesting that a single woman is incomplete, so much as that a person who has never truly loved someone more than themselves is incomplete. And you know, loving someone else unconditionally is a challenge that everyone should try to live up to, single or married, young or old.

 

 

 

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