Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Laddie: A True Blue Story

Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter is a lot like my mystery favorite The Mystery of Hunting's End.  No, it's not a crime novel.  But I have loved this book for a very long time for a lot of reasons.  Like Hunting's End, it came in a box of books from my Grandma.  It's a first edition--but it's a well-loved, well-used first edition.  The spine covering was none too firm when it arrived and it fell off altogether before I'd managed to read it the first time.  I taped up the binding to keep it as protected as possible and then proceeded to read and reread it.  

When I was young, I longed for a brother.  I grew up with two boy cousins who I adored and there would have been nothing finer, in my opinion, than to have a brother. When I read Laddie...all about Little Sister and how she loved her big brother best of all and what a fine young man Laddie was...well, I wanted a brother just like Laddie.  My cousins were pretty good substitutes, I must say.  They treated their younger cousin pretty well--and they were the next best thing since I had no brothers of my own,.

And, not only did Laddie remind me of my cousins, but Gene Stratton-Porter's stories took place in my neck of the woods.  Little Sister (whose real name is never mentioned) talks about her father selling apples and other goods in Ft. Wayne--which was only an hour away from where I lived.  It was the first book I read that took place in Indiana--and in the very area where I grew up.

Laddie's story is a very sweet, family-oriented one.  Laddie and Little Sister are part of a huge family with twelve children and a mother and father who love each other and their children with all their hearts and who love God most of all.  Their main Christian precept is that God is Love and they show their love to their family, their friends, their neighbors, and even the strangers who come to live and resist becoming part of the community.  It is a very idealistic view of family life in the late 1800s--but it is very nice to think that folks could really be that way.  That they could live the Golden Rule and yet be strong people who stand up for their own.

The story is also about Laddie and his love for the strangers' lovely daughter.  It's about his efforts to break through their resistance and show them what friendship and love are all about.  It's about faith...faith in your friends, faith in your family, and faith in God to see you through.  And....actually there is a bit of a mystery.  The strangers....the Pryors have a secret trouble.  It's a trouble that keeps them to themselves and makes Mrs. Pryor white-faced, weak, and heart-broken.  It's a mystery that will have to be solved before Laddie can have his girl and the Pryors can truly become part of the community.  And Little Sister plays a major role in helping the happy ending come about.
 
There are some stories that having read them when you are young, you just can't go back to.  Either you've outgrown them or you've since read other books that make them seem unlikely or something has happened to change your point of view.  Whatever it may be....it's just not the same.  When I sat down to read Laddie, it was like 30-some years just fell away.  The story was just as dear and appealing as it was all those years ago when I longed for a big brother like Laddie.  Five stars for a lovely trip down memory lane and a memorable story that has stood the test of time.

Quotes:

Secrets with Laddie were the greatest joy in life. He was so big and so handsome. He was so much nicer than any one else in our family, or among our friends, that to share his secrets, run his errands, and love him blindly was the greatest happiness. Sometimes I disobeyed father and mother; I minded Laddie like his right hand. (p. 1)

As long as there had been eleven babies, they should have been so accustomed to children that they needn't all of them have objected to me, all except Laddie, of course. That was the reason I loved him so and tried to do every single thing he wanted me to, just the way he liked it done. That was why I was facing the only spot on our land where I was the slightest afraid; because he asked me to. If he had told me to dance a jig on the ridgepole of our barn, I would have tried it. (p. 6)

Do you know that being a stranger is the hardest thing that can happen to any one in all this world? ~Pamela Pryor (p. 16)

Maybe after all it's a good thing to tell people about their meanness and give them a stirring up once in a while. (p. 49)

You always must answer politely any one who speaks to you; and you get soundly thrashed, at least at our house, if you don't be politest of all to an older person especially with white hair.  Father is extremely particular about white hair. (p. 52)

Mother always tells me not to repeat things; but I'm not smart enough to know what to say, so I don't see what is left but to tell what mother, or father, or Laddie says when grown people ask me questions. (p. 58)

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