Book Review: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

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A Long Way from Chicago was a gift I received years ago.  Sadly, though, I did not get around to reading it for some time.  But when I did I learned just what I had been missing.

The novel revolves around Joey Dowdel and the adventures he and his sister Mary Alice have as they are growing up.  Every August during the Great Depression the two are sent down south to stay with their grandmother in her small Illinois town.  They call her Grandma; the neighbors call her Mrs. Dowdel.  We readers know her as Grandma Dowdel.

Grandma Dowdel is as big as a barge and as odd as only an old lady who has lived by her wits and her will can be.  On their first visit, Joey and his sister learn that Grandma likes her privacy.  She does not want any snoopy neighbors poking their noses into her business, period.  So when a fancy-shmancy reporter comes to town to do a story on the recently deceased “Shotgun” Cheatham’s life history, Grandma decides to send the man packing.  But she does it in the most unexpected way possible:  she hosts Cheatham’s remains in her house, sitting up with the dead until he can be buried!

If you think that is a recipe for fun, wait until next summer, when Grandma teaches the Cowgill brothers not to go around blowing up mailboxes and privies – especially if it is her mailbox!  The year after that, she takes her grandchildren on a crime spree in order to feed the hungry – and put the town sheriff in his place.  😉

The high jinks only get higher as the summers pass.  Despite the Depression, Grandma finds plenty of ways not only to keep her grandchildren busy, but to maintain the rhythm and security of the town she says she “couldn’t give two hoots about.”  Joey and Mary Alice – along with the reader – never know what is going to happen next.

And that is just the way Grandma Dowdel likes it.

A Long Way from Chicago is a rip-roaring good book.  It is full of laughs.  Rereading it again a little while ago, I was surprised at how much I had forgotten.  I was equally surprised at how much the book made me laugh!

There are two sequels to this book, possibly three, and they are as hilarious as this one – maybe even more so.  Richard Peck’s series is classic, readers; this blogger recommends it highly.  And since I happen to “give two hoots” about you, I suggest that you grab a copy of A Long Way from Chicago and start reading!

See you around!

The Mithril Guardian

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