DiCamillo’s ninth novel, a story of loss and family, returns again to the world of Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home to follow Beverly Tapinski. After the death of her dog, Buddy, Beverly runs away from her mother, Rhonda, with whom she has a strained relationship, to start a new life — one that she wants to live alone, with no need to depend on anyone and no one to depend on her. But, as she finds a job and a place to stay, she slowly begins to build the family she’s always needed.
“Kate DiCamillo trusts children, and it makes her writing remarkable,” said Alex Schaffner of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts. “She trusts them to feel a range of complicated emotions, to experience hardship just like any adult, and to be capable, kind, cruel, self-directed, and a little lost. Beverly’s journey into a place away from her everyday world is a perfect respite from our own, though it never shies away from the fact that life is difficult. Runaway she may be, but Beverly is so clear-eyed and decisive that you might be inclined to follow her anywhere.”
Here, Bookselling This Week discusses grief, family, and art with DiCamillo.
Bookselling This Week: What inspired you to return to the world of the Three Rancheros for a third time?
Kate DiCamillo: All three characters (Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly) have preoccupied me for a long time. When I finished Raymie’s story, I never anticipated that I would go back to that world — but Louisiana’s voice was so insistent, so demanding, that I couldn’t resist it. I knew Beverly had something to say, even if she was much more reluctant to say it. Oddly, her reluctance convinced me that I had to do it, that she needed her story told.
BTW: Where did the idea for Beverly’s story come from?
KD: It started with Beverly’s dog, Buddy, dying. Having just experienced the death of a beloved dog myself, I knew how unmooring that loss can be.
BTW: Beverly, Right Here, like Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home, is set in the 1970s. Is there a particular reason why you chose this time period?
KD: I grew up in the ’70s — so to be there, in that time period, is to plug into that feeling of “becoming.”
BTW: One thing explored in this book is grief and how we deal with it. Why did you choose to address this topic through Beverly’s character?
KD: One of the books that I kept close by me when I was writing Beverly’s story is H Is for Hawk — a book that is so much about grieving, but it’s kind of an oblique grieving. Beverly’s quietness, her stoic demeanor, seemed so well-suited to an understated (I hope) exploration of what it means to lose things, people, dogs.
BTW: An idea that spans across the Three Rancheros books is that of a found family — Beverly can’t choose her mother or her father, but she can choose those she surrounds herself with, in the same way Louisiana and Raymie make homes and families for themselves with different people and places. Why do you keep returning to this idea?
KD: I know! It’s one of those themes that keeps popping up in my books without me even being aware of it. I guess it is so central to the stories I tell because it has been my experience. I have found my way home through friends.
BTW: Art, particularly The Annunciation, also plays an important role in this story. Why did you choose that image specifically?
KD: I love Annunciation paintings. I loved all the conflicted emotions on the angels’ faces and Mary’s face. I love news being delivered via angels. Which is kind of how I see art — it delivers messages to us if we stand still and wait.
BTW: Where do you see the Three Rancheros, particularly Beverly, going as they grow older?
KD: I really truly believe that they will be friends until the end of their lives.
I think Beverly will be a professor (of art).
I think Louisiana will be an actress (of course).
And Raymie? Raymie will be a writer.
BTW: Can you tell readers what you’re working on next?
KD: I’ve got a novel on the loom. I can’t say a word about it. But I’m working, working, working!