Ludie's Life

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Cynthia Rylant returns to her home state of West Virginia with this powerful and evocative collection of poems. In a heartbreaking narrative that flows like a novel, we follow Ludie from childhood to falling in love and getting married, through the birth of her own children, and on into old age. This is the story of one woman’s experiences in a hardscrabble coal-mining town, a story that brims with universal themes about life, love, and family—and all of the joy, laughter, ...

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Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. 2006 HB First Edition New in New jacket New HB/New DJ/A narrative of her life from childhood into old age in West Virginia.

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Overview

Cynthia Rylant returns to her home state of West Virginia with this powerful and evocative collection of poems. In a heartbreaking narrative that flows like a novel, we follow Ludie from childhood to falling in love and getting married, through the birth of her own children, and on into old age. This is the story of one woman’s experiences in a hardscrabble coal-mining town, a story that brims with universal themes about life, love, and family—and all of the joy, laughter, heartache, and loss that accompany them.

 Would she tell you that six children
were too many,
that some disappointed,
that others surprised,
but that, all in all,
six
were too many
and one
would have been just fine.
Would she tell you that she married
that boy at fifteen
not only because he was tall and kind
but also because
she needed a way out.
              —from LUDIE’S LIFE

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Debbie Clifford
The succinct title of this book begins the story of one woman's life as the wife of a coal miner. Ludie marries Rupe primarily to escape the difficult life she faced as a child in Alabama. After Ludie and Rupe marry, they move to West Virginia where they remain the rest of their lives. They raise six children and even help to raise some of the grandchildren. Ludie dies at ninety-five, many years after Rupe. Although on the surface her life seems unremarkable, Ludie is a special woman who makes the most of the hardscrabble life she is handed. The story is told in verse, and much of the writing is exquisitely touching. Near the end of her life, Ludie asks her children if they have seen their father-she is certain that he is going to stop by. "Ludie waited while everyone came and went, came and went, came and went, then finally, one morning just before dawn, Rupe stopped by." By this point in the book, the reader is completely taken in and cannot help but be moved by Rylant's words. The audience will be limited, as with Rylant's previous book Boris (Harcourt, 2005/VOYA April 2005), but those teens who select this work are in for an exceptional read.
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Cynthia Rylant, who grew up in Appalachia, loves its mountains and its people; she's the award-winning author of many fine children's books set in her native region. This collection of related poems does not appear to be written for children. Its loosely rhythmic lines, hovering just on the edge of prose, follow beautiful fifteen-year-old Ludie as she moves through life in a coal town, dreaming of a future, having six children, enjoying good times, coping with sorrow and death, caring for family members and friends, growing old. Ludie has her own way of looking at life, practical and clear-eyed, centered always on her home—the mountains, the spring blossoms, the blazing autumn trees, the snows of winter. Experiences in her changing life lead to moments of revelation; her husband Rupe—"tall and kind"—nonetheless causes her to reflect that sex is "one of those gifts / you know you can't afford / but you spend the money anyway, / sex would be instead / one of those things / you could have done without, maybe, / if you'd known the cost." Ludie's aging, the loss of her trees, then her husband, and her death in a nursing home are exceptionally poignant and, ultimately, elegiac. Teens and adults not acquainted with Appalachia might find it helpful to read some of Rylant's other works like Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds (with Barry Moser) and The Relatives Came, illustrated by Stephen Gammell, or George Ella Lyon's fine novel, Borrowed Children (Orchard, 1988).
Kirkus Reviews
Readers familiar with Rylant's work from their childhoods will feel comfortably familiar with the setting of this narrative. Some will recognize the "relatives" or the mountains or cups of coffee at the kitchen table and other autobiographical tidbits that have appeared in the body of the author's work. Like so many others, this shares a spellbinding voice of the storyteller whose simple language and quiet voice manage to unfold a story resonant and meaningful on multiple levels. A novel-in-verse, this traces Ludie's life from her birth in Alabama in 1910, until she dies at age 95 in West Virginia. She marries Rupe when he's 15, because he's "tall and kind." Rupe secures work as coal miner in West Virginia and they move to start their lives together. She doesn't tell her story chronologically, and there is no plot to speak of. It's a near elegy celebrating a special character, a woman who practiced what she preached, and the special, if not basic, life she led. The narrative is often a collection of Zen-like moments of self-discovery and serenity. Of course, Rylant can't resist an occasional thinly disguised critique of contemporary American culture, where so many are lonely and disconnected from family. Ludie might not have had much money, but she was never lonely. A powerful read for young and old alike. (Fiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152053895
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/1/2006
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 6.83 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

CYNTHIA RYLANT is the acclaimed author of more than a hundred books for young people, including the poetry collection Boris, the beloved Mr. Putter & Tabby series, the Henry and Mudge series, and the novel Missing May, which received the Newbery Medal. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2009

    What a Life!

    Books about a person¿s whole life can often be intimidating and cumbersome. Not so in the case of LUDIE¿S LIFE, by Cynthia Rylant. Rylant, through poetic form, visits key events, people, and places in Ludie¿s life and weaves together a tale of love, honor, and self-respect. I enjoyed this story more than I thought I would and became even more involved with the story as it unfolded, finding myself unable to even put the book down once I was about a third of the way into it.<BR/><BR/> Ludie, born in rural Alabama, moves to West Virginia with her coal-mining husband, Rupe. Together, they make a home and raise their children. Ludie, despite her poverty and lack of education and in spite of the numerous emotional and economic tribulations she endures, matures into a wise woman who is respected by others. Her love for her husband grows over the years and the two really become soul mates. Though all of her children don¿t turn out the way she expected or marry the people she would have chosen for them, and even her grandchildren bring her challenges she could not have imagined, Ludie realizes that she has contributed positively to the world and she has made a difference.<BR/><BR/> The saddest part of Ludie¿s life comes when she is old and alone. Rupe has died, her children have grown and are old themselves, and even her grandchildren are grown and gone. Rylant writes of Ludie¿s loneliness in a tangible way¿will she die alone and forgotten? Will the end of her life be a bittersweet farewell to the world that has thrown so many disappointments? I recommend this book to any reader who cheers for happy endings!

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