As far as Deza knows, hers is the only family in Gary, Indiana with their own family motto. The Malone’s like to say that “We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.” The nice thing is, they really are. Their journey though, is rather circuitous with more than their share pitfalls and dead ends.
Unfortunately, the Malone’s live in Depression era Gary, Indiana. The area’s been hit hard by the “economic downturn,” especially, if your skin is brown. Wonderful almost always seems to be just around the bend, out of reach.
However, readers will be left with the feeling that for Deza, her mother, father and her brother, Jimmie, Wonderful is not so much a destination as it is the feeling whenever they are all together. Wonderful is a state of being, not a state.
Christopher Paul Curtis has brought this wonderful family to life in a way that I can’t remember him doing since The Watsons Go To Birmingham. They are characters who care deeply about each other in with and in spite of their frailties which make them all the more appealing to readers. From father’s desperate job hunting and mother’s quiet strength in the face of her ignorant, racist employer to Jimmie’s fierce need to be seen as a teenager rather than a ”little kid” and Deza’s passion to be learning while still being a help to her family, these are people we care about and cheer for. The strong sense of family is missing in so many books these days. Curtis has show, admirably, that even when the prospect looks bleak, real families can and do exist in literature just as they do in life. Kudos, Mr. Curtis.
Posted by: Eileen