(The cover has a redhead reading a letter on a porch with a dictionary at her feet. How could I not pick this up?)
This book in one (made up) word: heartmelting. (That's one joyous moment past heartwarming.)
This was a perfect summer read! The story takes place over the course of one summer, and it's a light little Juv book, so I didn't have to concentrate hard on it.
Nine year old Ruby Lavender is best friends with her grandmother, Miss Eula. They write letters to each other nearly every day, and leave them in a knot in an oak tree. Ruby Lavender spends her days hanging out at her grandmother's store, where her great aunt also works, or with her mom. The book grabbed me right from the start! The opening scene has Ruby Lavender "liberating" some chickens from a nearby egg farm with her grandmother. Suddenly though, Ruby Lavender finds her routine upset: Miss Eula is going to be spending the summer in Hawaii with her son, daughter-in-law, and their brand new baby. As the summer unfolds, the reader hears all about Hallelujah, Mississippi through letters that Ruby Lavender sends to her grandma.
Good garden of peas! Hallelujah, Mississippi could be Mitford, North Carolina! ("Good garden of peas!" is the exclamatory used by Ruby Lavender and her grandmother. I love it, and am considering adopting it myself.) So this is totally unorthodox, but I would definitely say that At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (an adult fiction) would be a readalike.
As I began listening to this gem, I found many scenarios to laugh along with. As the book unfolded, I discovered a great depth to the story. Slightly sobering, but not too heavy, the underlying plot surrounding Ruby Lavender's relationship to her grandmother, and one of the reasons that Miss Eula is traveling to Hawaii for the summer, is a bit more serious than one would initially assume.
The writing in Love, Ruby Lavender is superb. Mostly epistolary, with a bit of narrative thrown in to fill in the blanks, the reader really gets to know Ruby Lavender. And if you're anything like me, you'll fall head over heels for this spunky redhead.
A note on narration (since I listened to this on CD): the accent seemed just a tad overdone, but the pacing is good, as is the regularity of volume. I see in other reviews that there is artwork in the book, which I missed seeing. So I would maybe recommend this as a print or ebook rather than audio.
*I checked out my copy of Love, Ruby Lavender from my local library.