Lila

A beautifully written book, worthy of all the attention it’s getting and the months of waiting for it to filter through the list of other library patrons to arrive in my lap. Lila Dahl, a young girl named by a teacher who mistakes her last name as a Norwegian name instead of Doll, the woman who plucked her from neglect and raised her; Lila unaware that she’d been missing a name (last) until asked for it. Doll saves Lila from hunger and cold, stealing her from the cabin with her kinfolk who’ve banished her to the stoop and forgotten her. She’s named Lila by the old woman she and Doll first stay with before being chased away by the woman’s son. Doll and Lila hit the road, joining up with Doane’s ragtag group of migrant workers, getting paid in apples for the apple picking children are well-suited for, tramping along dusty roads that get worse during the dust storms of the 30s. Doll ends up covered in blood after fighting/killing a man who claims to be Lila’s father, Lila finds her way to a St. Louis whorehouse for awhile before saving herself, escaping, working in a hotel, then hitchhiking to nowheresville, Iowa (aka Gilead). She finds an abandoned shack, gets work in town doing laundry and weeding, and stumbles into a church during a rainstorm. Eventually she marries the old reverend, pops out a baby during a snowstorm (he’s first baptized by melted snow). The relationship between Lila and the preacher is quite sweet, he’s delighted by her unconventional thoughts and questions, she’s a tamed wild animal who comes to trust him and enjoy the safety of his arms.