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by A. LaFaye

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-87598-8
Publisher: Viking

An abandoned suitcase pushes a Wisconsin farm girl with a yen for travel out of the nest in this bland post_Civil War story from LaFaye (The Year of the Sawdust Man, p. 740). While waiting in a Michigan train station for relatives who never show, Katherine, 16, finds a suitcase belonging to one Edith Shay of Richmond, Virginia, and impulsively buys a one-way ticket to Chicago, intending to see some of the world while returning the bag to its owner. The world she encounters is mostly benign. She has little trouble finding work, lodging, or role models, is never in personal danger, and experiences or witnesses little suffering beyond a robbery (while she sleeps), hard work, and family squabbles. In fact, during her winter-long journey from Chicago to Richmond, with stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., she spends far more time battling homesickness and fretting about her deception (she travels as "Edith") than describing sights or stretching her wings. While readers will relish Katherine's/Edith's colorful way with a phrase, they will have trouble reconciling her independence of spirit with her meek responses to the verbal abuse of her employers, and the ending is weak_the real Edith is dead, with no kin. Katherine walks away, thinking about taking up a career as a travel writer. With so many other fledglings, from Katherine Paterson's Lyddie (1991) to the young artist in Joann Mazzio's Leaving Eldorado (1993), facing first flights over far harsher terrain, this junket seems too easy. (Fiction. 11-13)