Saturday, February 16, 2008

Book Review: Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

Hey, folks. Here's the second in my series of Cybils finalist reviews. Again, these are in no particular order; this just happened to be the one that was ready to go.

Book: Billie Standish Was Here
Author: Nancy Crocker
Published: 2007

William Marie "Billie" Standish was named for the boy she wasn't, and she's spent every one of her eleven years trying to make up for that first mistake. Still, she knows she's never going to satisfy her Mama, and has come to believe that it's her own fault.

One rainy summer, she finds that the whole town has decamped for fear of the levees breaking, leaving only her own family and Miss Lydia across the street, a widow who lives alone. Billie offers to bring her mail from town, and Miss Lydia offers lunch in return, and a friendship begins.

When the unthinkable happens, Miss Lydia is the only one Billie can turn to, cementing a bond that will sustain them both for years to come.

This is a book that has a rape in it. It is not a book about rape. I think that's a pretty important distinction. Crocker's novel is, in the end, about love: the love of two women from different generations but with the same experience. It's not a mother-daughter love. It's friendship, pure and simple, with no boundaries of age or experience.

It's especially fascinating to see how the friendship changes Billie. She starts the novel as a ghost-child, apologizing for taking up air. She ends it as a woman strong enough to make the tough decisions about the people she loves most.

Due to its slow pace and historical setting (1960's) this one might need some book talking, but keep it on hand for mid-to-older teens who love a good, thoughtful story about human relationships.

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