Thursday, August 09, 2012
Prairie Evers, by Ellen Airgood
Prairie's family inherited the farm from her mama's side of the family. New Paltz is where she grew up, and now the Evers family are trying to make a go of life by living off this small portion of land. Folks in town seem to have lots to say about this whole situation.
When Prairie and her mama are in town to pick up Prairie's new chicks, her mama leaves her in the malt shop while she runs some errands. While Prairie is sitting at the counter top, she overhears some women mention her mama's name. The women go on to talk all kinds of foolishness about her family-- how Prairie probably can't even read and isn't in school -- how her family probably doesn't have two pennies to rub together -- and it is everything Prairie can do to sit put and not give those women a piece of her mind.
One of those insults, however, is soon unfounded. Prairie's folks tell her that she has to enroll in school. Grammy has always taught Prairie before. They were explorers, learning about things that are interesting. How can she ever go to a school where she is trapped inside all day? How can she ever learn to raise her hand when she has something to say? Or not to blurt out an answer?
School is only made bearable by the one friend that Prairie sets on making. Her name is Ivy Blake. She's clearly a loner and a pretty quiet one at that, but Prairie seeks her out and soon they are spending lots of time together, and Prairie actually starts to feel happy. But as she slowly peels back the layers of Ivy's existence, Prairie realizes that things are not always as they seem.
Ellen Airgood has written a story of family, friendship and loss that while sad in measure is buoyed by an overarching feeling of hope. Even though Prairie and Ivy are misfits on their own, together they are strong and they even each other out. Ivy's family story is an intense one and is buffered by the Evers' family's cohesiveness. There is a Southern feeling to this story despite the setting, and while the idea of the importance of making family is loud and clear, the story never gets eclipsed by it. Prairie is a strong protagonist and readers are likely to admire her even as they cringe at her adjustments to school life.