Road to Tater Hill is the story of Annabel and the death of her baby sister Mary Kate. The story reminded me of Love, Aubrey, another Middle Grade Fiction Cybils nominee in which a mother grieves so deeply for her lost child that she neglects the child she has left alive. Also in both books the child who is neglected and also grieving finds a new friend to help her cope with her loss and her feeling of not being enough for her mother. In yet another similarity, Aubrey and Annabel both live with a grandmother who takes care of them while their mothers are recovering from their depression. (You can read Betsy-Bee’s and my take on Love, Aubrey here.)
Road to Tater Hill is also a story that extols the joy and comfort of a reading life. Annabel is a reader, and her new friend, Miss Eliza, also finds strength and consolation in books. In fact, just like in another of this year’s middle grade fiction books, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Semicolon review here). the protagonist finds particular solace in reading one of my favorite books, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
“I dragged out the reading of A Wrinkle in Time. Whenever I really liked a book, I couldn’t stop reading, but this time I didn’t want it to end. I read each page twice, sometimes three times, before turning it. I felt like I knew the characters, and I wanted to keep them as my friends. Once I finished the book, they would be gone.”
I enjoyed the way Annabel and her friend swapped books and reading recommendations. Miss Eliza introduces Annabel to my favorite poem, Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. Annabel shares her copy of A Wrinkle in Time with Miss Eliza. Reading friends are some of the best friends of all, aren’t they?
The Road to Tater Hill takes place in North Carolina in 1963. The novel is Ms. Hemingway’s first solo book. (She co-wrote a couple of other novels.) If the setting or the subject appeal to you, it’s worth a look. I like the photograph of an actual, whole girl on the cover of the book, by the way.