Archive for the ‘Irene Hunt’ Category

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt ~ 1966. Follett Publishing, circa 1970s. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-695-49009-5. 192 pages.

Here we have that familiar creature, the vintage bildungsroman. A fine example, to be sure, but a member of a vast common flock.

There are numerous other titles of this ilk still to be found on high school library shelves everywhere; this is not a condemnation, merely an observation.

Somewhere in the United States – midwest? New England? – seven-year-old Julie has just lost her mother to an unspecified illness which they both have shared. Youngest of a sibling group of three – older sister Laura is seventeen, brother Chris the middle child – Julie is sent off to the nearby country home of her mother’s unmarried sister, Aunt Cordelia, a stern and highly regarded teacher at a rural school.

The novel follows Julie along as she navigates her way through the usual childhood and adolescent experiences of someone growing up in the American small-town world of the mid-20th Century. (We never get a firm date as to when this all happens, though clues point to it taking place in the 1940s or 50s. Possibly earlier?)

Young Julie has been an indulged small child with all of the expected attitudes and mannerisms thereof; her aunt strives to mold her young charge into responsible and thoughtful personhood. She succeeds, though it takes ten years. We leave teenage Julie as a younger version of Aunt Cordelia, albeit with a happier love affair in hand than Cordelia experienced in her previous turn.

In the course of this well-presented, gently paced micro-saga (there is a major clue in the title, that “Slowly” is most apt), our heroine comes to terms with her inner flaws and weaknesses, and grows into a likeable young woman of some accomplishment.

Bumps in young Julie’s personal road have included that early traumatic loss of her beloved mother, her older sister’s departure into happy married life with diminished focus on a younger sister, a mildly ne’er-do-well alcoholic uncle living in close proximity to her aunt’s house, an episode of dealing with a mentally challenged and uncared for classmate, and a deeply regrettable boyfriend in high school, who eventually gets one of Julie’s peers pregnant.

Luckily true love is waiting for our heroine, in the person of childhood friend Danny, who sticks around and comes through when most needed. Happy married life beckons, once the two of them finish college, etcetera. One wonders if Julie’s writing ambitions (for of course this book is chockfull of what may well be autobiographical verisimilitude) will be eclipsed by her embrace of her upcoming traditionally housewifely role?

Who knows. Perhaps she’ll have it all…

Well-written in general, with a few far reaches as plot threads are neatly gathered together. An engaging read, but nothing to cross the road for, as it were. Enough complexity for an “adult” read; the “young adult” intended audience likely accounts for the occasional stutters in the plotline as things are tweaked to provide moral teachings.

The biggest drawback to me was that there was absolutely no real sense of time or place; the setting is blandly generic. It’s a moderately engaging character study from first to last, but it doesn’t go deep enough for true memorability.

My rating: 6.5/10

Up a Road Slowly did win the Newbery Medal in 1967, and Irene Hunt was a well-respected writer of teen-targetted novels, her most well-known being the Civil War coming of age story of a young man, Across Five Aprils, 1964, which was a Newbery Honor Book (runner-up) in 1965. Six other YA novels published between 1968 and 1985 are well-regarded but not as well-known as the two Newbery recipients.

 

 

 

 

 

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