Carolina’s a runaway hiding out at Harmony Farm. Mr. Ray and Miss Latah treat Carolina as their own. For 10 years she lived easy with her parents in the North Carolina mountains. But it feels risky speaking about the accident that claimed them and her baby brother. And Carolina won’t reveal the year of living with Auntie Shen, her surrogate grandma who took ill and was taken away or how she, Carolina, had to live in foster homes. Then Russell, a troublemaker from the foster home Carolina ran away from, secretly ...
Carolina’s a runaway hiding out at Harmony Farm. Mr. Ray and Miss Latah treat Carolina as their own. For 10 years she lived easy with her parents in the North Carolina mountains. But it feels risky speaking about the accident that claimed them and her baby brother. And Carolina won’t reveal the year of living with Auntie Shen, her surrogate grandma who took ill and was taken away or how she, Carolina, had to live in foster homes. Then Russell, a troublemaker from the foster home Carolina ran away from, secretly comes to Harmony Farm. Believing he’s a friend, Carolina sneaks him food and takes the blame for his pranks, until one night, when something so terrible happens that Carolina runs away again.
Marilyn Taylor McDowell has been bringing children and books together for over 25 years as librarian, storyteller, teacher, and proprietor of a children’s bookshop. This is her first novel. She lives in North Chittenden, Vermont.
The year is 1964 and ten-year-old Carolina is on the run in Appalachia. After her parents and little brother are killed in a car wreck, she is taken in by a close friend of the family. "Auntie Shen" and Carolina live a simple life of gardening and harvesting, selling the farm's products to neighbors and tourists. Then Auntie Shen has a stroke and must be hospitalized for a lengthy time. Social workers come and take the free-spirited and mountain-wild girl to the flatlands to live with a foster family. Before long, she runs away. Carolina is caught and runs away again. The cycle repeats until, finally, she comes to Harmony Farm. There, they take her in and make her feel like family. Then, she encounters a boy from her second foster home. He had been her friend but is clearly a troublemaker; still, she hides him and brings him food. He precipitates a disaster and Carolina feels so guilty that she runs away again. Somehow, she must find the courage to return and ask forgiveness from the Harmony family. The plot actually moves quite slowly, dwelling on the daily and seasonal rhythms of farm life, cooking, doing chores, and celebrating holidays. Each aspect of life in an Appalachia now being forced into modern ways is lovingly detailed and elegantly described. This is a good book for readers who delight in savoring the pleasures of everyday life but who also like a little adventure to keep the plot moving. Reviewer: Myrna Dee Marler
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—The early 1960s might be pretty turbulent everywhere else, but for 10-year-old orphan Carolina and the self-sufficient mountain woman she calls Auntie Shen, life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is homegrown, hand-preserved, and intrusion-free. After Carolina is orphaned, Auntie Shen takes her in, knowing full well that things are changing even in their remote piece of the world. Meddling do-gooders and social services overpower informal, off-the-grid arrangements like theirs with increasing ardor. But Auntie Shen and Carolina manage just fine—until Auntie Shen suffers a stroke. The situation is quickly declared unacceptable, and Carolina is forced away from her home. Desperate with worry for Auntie Shen, and indignant at being handed around against her will, the child flees two foster situations. She seeks refuge anywhere she can before finally stumbling onto Harmony Farm. There, Miss Latah, Mr. Ray, and Lucas gently help Carolina rebuild her trust. She isn't sure why or even whether the Harmony family wants her. But in the end, her happiness—and her beloved makeshift family—are finally made whole. McDowell's prose reads easily and creates a wonderful sense of place. The author occasionally jolts readers awake with jarring reminders that Carolina lives in a particular time, as well. Odd references to the civil rights struggle and the war in Vietnam are strangely, startlingly incongruous with the rest of Carolina's surroundings. Or perhaps they're a fitting complement to the startling strangeness of the child's entire world.—Catherine Threadgill, formerly at Charleston County Public Library, SC
Taylor's impressive debut takes place in the western mountains of 1960s North Carolina, just when modern, legalistic American culture has begun encroaching on the old mountain ways. Ten-year-old Carolina, who has lost her family to a car accident, moves in with her grandmother, "Auntie Shen." Carolina and Auntie Shen get on well, grieving together for their lost loved ones, making jellies and jams to sell at a roadside stand and sharing the small joys of a simple life. When Auntie Shen suffers a stroke, Carolina finds herself in a system that prevents her from moving in with her best friend's mother, instead being shuffled around from one miserable place to another until, finally, she runs away. Once on her own, Carolina's feisty spirit, forged in the mountain ways of faith and flexibility, helps her make her way to another special place that she can call home. Although Taylor clearly aims to emphasize the value of the old mountain ways, her nuanced narrative illuminates the value and the potential pitfalls of both modern and mountain culture. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, February 1, 2009: “McDowell reveals her love for this part of the world, savoring the language, the environment, and the traditions of mountain culture. Thoughtful readers will come to love it, and Carolina, too.”