I have just finished a delightful and heartwarming book entitled Journey to Another Place by Inez S. C. Laurie-Douglas. This is a "coming-of-age novel," a type of book I had never read before, so I was happy for the opportunity! Normally I parcel time to books I am going to review; however, I was enjoying this story so much that I just kept on reading...until I finished! It's the story of a young girl; perhaps I saw myself in the book, or perhaps I saw friends or relatives there--no matter--I can tell you it is the perfect gift for a young girl so, parents or other relatives...be on the look for this book as a nice gift addition to any celebration for your children! Adults will also enjoy!
The novel centers on the life of Catherine Lawson and begins when she is a child of 9 and is staying with her grandparents to help gather mangos, red cherries and other produce, which was grown on their ten acres of land. I was caught there right at the beginning as I was drawn back into my childhood of picking strawberries, peas, etc., on my grandparents' farm! The difference--I was in Pennsylvania and Catherine was in Trinidad!
Catherine had a few more siblings than myself; however, just as we did, we were assigned tasks and duties to help at home--but there was always time to play! Indeed Catherine, even at that early age, had the ambition and energy and intelligence that both drove her to work for what she wanted in life...and sometimes get her into trouble. I thoroughly enjoyed her twisting words within conversations with her mother, in particular, and then somehow feel quite justified spending the day playing rather than washing the dishes! Of course, as good parents are, Catherine never got away with it--still it was fun to see her try and then good-naturedly accept punishment when she got caught.
It was very clear that Catherine had a loving family life with supportive parents. Her father, in particular, soon recognized his daughter's intelligence and drive for schooling. Even as he supported all of his children, he allowed Catherine to receive extra attention as he recognized her capabilities and desire for a solid education. Indeed, it was very interesting to me to read about the educational system there in Trinidad--it seemed much more strict and structured than here in America! I'll let readers decide whether that was good or bad. I found that it seemed to reinforce educational requirements much more fully than our own. Oftentimes, children like myself who do have the drive and interest in educational activities receive no extra support here in America--this impressed me that I could readily see teachers, parents and other students supporting the entire process!
There was also heartache in Catherine's family and during the time period, her oldest brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic and two other siblings died. "I wanted to be someone even doctors would recognize as important, someone who couldn't be ignored or whose questions couldn't be swept to one side." (p. 80) Yes, poverty was a constant burden and fear for the Lawson family; however, even in these situations, Catherine realized that part of the medical issues for her family was based upon their inability to receive the proper, available care for her brother and sister.
In fact, at one point Catherine feared that she would not be able to finish her education, when a small miracle happened. She was able to travel to the United States--Pennsylvania, in fact, and work to make enough money to meet her needs.
Yes, Catherine's "love life" was also a major part of her story...but, even there, we are able to see that her personal goals were weighed against decisions regarding intimacy and possible marriage. I must admit I enjoyed her somewhat "intended blindness" to the fact that she had many young boys interested in her so that she didn't get rushed into a relationship she wasn't willing to have!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Catherine's story, especially as she closed with, "Over the years, as I had skipped grades, earned top marks and garnered praise from my superiors, I had become overconfident. I was so sure of my intelligence, so confident in the strength of my ambition and my will to succeed, that I had forgotten that I was not the only master of my fate, that there was a greater power that also had guided me and helped me succeed at every step along the way." (p. 183)
This book is exceptionally well written and flows smoothly and quickly through to the end. Read this story--and share it with your children! Help show them that if a young woman from an impoverished family in Trinidad can achieve her dreams...that there are indeed ways for them to reach their own as well!