16. Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 263
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 30, 2010
First Published: Jan. 7, 2010
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Mama pulled a chicken egg from behind the azalea bush in our front yard and narrowed her eyes.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Young Readers Group.

Reason for Reading: I love books set in 1930s Southern USA.

Summary: Ludelphia Bennett is ten years old, her family is part of a sharecropping community. Ludelphia wears a patch over one eye as she accidentally went blind in it when a tiny sliver of wood flew into it when she was younger. She has a passion for quilting and is working on a special quilt now for her Mama that will tell Ludelphia's story to her. Mama is ill with a terrible cough and large with a baby on the way but when Mama goes into labour early and the baby is born healthy after 3 previous stillborn, Mama's health turns worse. She can hardly breathe and now she's coughing up blood. Ludelphia decides she must do more for Mama and embarks on a 40 mile journey to get the nearest doctor and medicine to save Mama's life. It's a dangerous journey for one-eyed, ten year old Ludelphia, who has never been out of Gee's Bend, and never seen a white person before but she takes her quilting with her to keep her hands busy and on the way comes across scraps of cloth to add to the quilt and her story.

Comments: This is a sweet, touching story. I fell in love with Ludelphia from the first page. She is a feisty girl, full of questions, not one to accept an answer without fully understanding and agreeing with it. She has a fine heart, loving all those around her and giving all the benefit of the doubt, she has a way with animals and is the only one who can get along with the stubborn mule they own. A very enjoyable character to read about.

The book takes the reader inside the daily life of a struggling sharecropper family during the depression. How the small rows of houses form a community and everyone looks after each other. They share the good times and they weather the strife and hardship together. I read this book quickly and really enjoyed it. It is a heart touching story and one roots for Ludelphia as she works her way through each challenge ultimately not only to save Mama but to save Gee's Bend itself. The story presented here is fictional but the author has woven a real life event from Gee's Bend's history into the novel.

The only thing that I felt book needed was an illustration at the end of Ludelphia's finished quilt. It's making is so integral to the book's plot, I felt a bit let down not being able to see the finished product and search within it for some of the pieces of cloth she found along the way.


  1. Hi Nicola - thanks so much for your lovely review of Leaving Gee's Bend! I'm happy you enjoyed Ludelphia's story -- and I would love to see her quilt as well. :) Send me your mailing address to irene at irenelatham dot com and i will send you a little something special. Thanks,

  2. Your review caught my eye at Sat. Review of Books because I believe this author just spoke at a local school. I'd love to read this book!

    Do you know about the quilters of Gee's Bend?


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