Research often takes me to some interesting places. In the book I’m working on now, one of my characters is a Newfoundland girl who marries a soldier from Louisiana while he’s based in St. John’s during WW2, and goes (for awhile) to live in Louisiana with him. I was looking for some books set in central and northern Louisiana (which, I’ve learned, is culturally quite different from the better-known New Orleans/Cajun/bayou world of southern Lousiana). Someone suggested to me the young adult novels of Kimberly Willis Holt, which are not only set in the right time period but also, at least the two I’ve read so far, in the right era too. They are also lovely, heartwarming stories about young girls in non-traditional family settings, coming of age and learning to live with the families they have rather than the idealized ones they’d like. I picked up Dear Hank Williams because its young protagonist, much like my main character, is fascinated by the ill-fated young country singer who because famous through his performances on the Louisiana Hayride radio show.
The novel My Louisiana Sky deals with a situation I’ve never seen explored in fiction before — its main character is a young girl of above-average intelligence, but both of her parents are mentally challenged/delayed, and as she gets older she is moving from simply taking them as they are, to being embarrassed by them, to trying to learn to accept them and what they can offer. Holt is a fine writer as well as a great chronicler of this particular slice of life in a place and time.