Somewhere along the way, however, the good reverend decided a small town meant a poor town, and a poor town meant humble people. Ollie’s daddy was born to preach to those people. His daddy had been a traveling preacher, as was his daddy before him, all the way back to the time of Moses. The Good Lord ushered him into that long line of preachers, and then his parents gave him the name Everlasting Love.
It was everything he was.
A children’s novel with a father/preacher character who is not cruel, not confused, not pathetic, and not looney is a rare jewel. I can think of one, off-hand, Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. Now there’s a second.
And thirteen year old Olivene Love (Ollie), eldest daughter of Reverend Everlasting Love, is a PK who has no problem with being the daughter of a preacher; she just wishes he would settle down and preach in one place. The Love family spends three days holding a revival in one small town before moving on the next one: “[p]reaching, mostly—some singing and an occasional healing if the need arises.” Ollie is ready to stay in one place for a while, make friends, experience indoor plumbing and life in a house rather than a travel trailer.
I loved the characters in this book for middle grade readers. Ollie’s daddy gives her good advice:
“Be careful when you listen to people called they, Olivene. They often tell lies.”
“Some people are broken. They don’t know anything other than hatred. It’s like their heart gets going in the wrong direction early on in life, and they can never quite manage to bring it back around to love. It’s a sad thing and we should have compassion for them. Think of the joy they are missing in life.”
Ollie herself is a good girl, typical oldest child. Reverend Love says to her, “You are an example for your sisters in word and deed. I am blessed to call you mine.” Yet, Ollie isn’t perfect, not too goody-goody; she still gets impatient with her younger sisters, tired of living on the road, and sometimes a little too bossy for her own good. She reminds me of my eldest, whom I am also blessed to call mine.
Ollie’s mama, Susanna Love, is “like living poetry” as she welcomes the people who come to the revival meeting. Her sister, Martha, is the pessimist who’s always counting in her head to see who gets the most privileges or treats, but Martha is also the one who gets things done. Gwen, the third sister, is the spitting image of her father, and she wants to become a preacher just like him. Camille, sister number four, is “simple in mind”, but she almost has the dictionary memorized and has “an air of grace and dignity.” Ellen, the baby of the family, is friendly, a tagalong, and eager to please. Together, the Love family has a character and winsomeness all their own, rivaling other great families of literature such as the the Marches, the Melendys, the Moffats, the Penderwicks, or All-of-a-Kind Family. Actually, they remind me a little bit of the Weems family in Kerry Madden’s series Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana’s Song, and Jessie’s Mountain, maybe because of the time period (1950’s) and because of the way that each of the girls in the family has her own personality and way of coping with life in a preacher’s family.
With a Name Like Love is a good family story with a good plot (I didn’t mention the plot, but there’s a murder to be solved, friendships to resolve, and family decisions to be made) and excellent, heart-grabbing characters. Highly recommended.
What are your favorite families in children’s literature?