Name of Book: Up A Road Slowly
Author: Irene Hunt
Audience: Ages 10 and up
Summary: After her mother’s death Julie goes to live with her spinster Aunt Cordelia in a big house in the country. As she grows from seven to seventeen she learns many lessons about life, love, family, friends, judging and ultimately herself.
Literary elements at work in the story : The time and especially the setting of this book are ambiguous. All we know is that Julie lived with her family in a college town where her father is a professor, and then moves out into the country to live with her aunt. I like this because by not giving us a precise setting it allows the reader to set the story in any area that they want. Having grown up in the rural south, that must be where Julie and Aunt Cordelia lived because I could “see” it in my mind’s eye. And while a specific time isn’t given, there are things that clue us in – Aunt Cordelia’s one room school house, heating with wood and coal, no electronics – that this takes place in the past. Yet, you get lost in the words and forget this minor thing and, at least for me, you find it set in a time and place you know. Aunt Cordelia, Julia and Uncle Haskel are written so well and are so believable. The book is only 186 pages long and each chapter basically covers a year or a specific event each year in Julie’s life. Julie moves us through the book and through the natural transitions of her life – school, peer relationships, widowed father dating and remarrying, older sister marrying, first love, family conflicts and relationships – and as she does she grows and evolves into a mature and happy young woman who finally realizes that she has had a good childhood. This simple little book was the 1966 Newbery Medal winner, and it will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? In today’s 21st century culture the book does have several gender issues that are now considered stereotypical – spinster Aunt who teaches school, women do all the cooking, cleaning and child rearing. Even though the book does contain these stereotypes, they are not intrusive or degrading. Instead they are just “natural” much like you would find in the Little House books, or Little Women.
Theological conversation partners: The underlying and unspoken theme is the search to find one’s place in the world and to find love – for yourself and from someone else. As I reread this book (I have read it almost once a year since I first read it in 5th grade in 1975 – this book is truly a part of me) I kept thinking of Psalm 139: 1-18 and especially verses 13-18. Due to her mother passing away when Julie is seven and then her dad shipping her off to live with Cordelia, I think Julie spends most of the book searching for who she is and whose she is. Psalm 139 speaks to both of these. We are reminded that God has known us since before time, and that we will never be abandoned by God. This is such an important thing for all of us to know, but especially children who are searching for their place in the world.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How is Julie like you?
- How is she different from you?
- What lessons did she learn from Aunt Cordelia? Uncle Haskel? Agnes? Her brother, sister and dad? Herself?
- Is God and/or faith a part of Julie’s life?
- How might her life have been different if they had been?
- What would you tell Julie about Psalm 139?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Shasta Brown.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., High School Students, Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary, Uncategorized Tagged: | coming of age, family, love, Newbery award, young adult