In the tradition of The Higher Power of Lucky and Because of Winn Dixie, a young girl deals with her mother’s suicide in this riveting debut novel that explores love, loss, family, friendship, and redemption.
In the summer of 1977, twelve-year-old Dulcie Louise Dixon arrives on the doorstep of her Aunt Bernie’s farmhouse in Shepherdsville, Ohio, with no voice, a spelling bee trophy, a Webster’s Dictionary, and a box full of ashes. She tries to adjust to her new situation, but can’t forget the words she left behind or the mother she’s lost to suicide.
One day, Dulcie discovers a secret place: a swan’s nest in the woods where at last, her broken world begins to mend. With the help of her surprising new friends—a guitar-playing runaway, a poetry-loving preacher, a one-armed gas station attendant, a singing seamstress, a chained-up hunting dog, and a family of swans—Dulcie is finally able to rise out of her sadness and grief to find her voice once again.
Ann Schoenbohm lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and two children. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a BFA in acting from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She currently volunteers with several organizations as a literary tutor and teaches writing in Minneapolis community education programs. Rising Above Shepherdsville is her debut novel.
Schoenbohm takes chances in her debut, weaving themes of spirituality and religion into a narrative about runaways and suicide. The story, set in the 1970s, is a superb balancing act, shifting effortlessly between Dulcie’s heartfelt hurt, descriptions of her new environment, and her awe in the presence of swans. The book’s many expressions of grace, despite the drama, are never over-the-top and always feel natural. Sensitive readers who enjoy tales of overcoming hardship will take Dulcie’s plight to heart. A stunning debut, highly recommended for all libraries.
– Booklist, Starred Review, May 1, 2019
The strongest moments bring the natural world and its creatures, feathered and human, to life through Dulcie's observant eyes.
– Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2019
There’s a Kate DiCamillo flavor to Dulcie’s narration, set in 1977, and the flavorful style and well-chosen detail effectively create the atmosphere.
– BCCB, June 2019
This story radiates a sense of comfort and warmth. Schoenbohm writes with rich, emotive language that envelops readers in a cozy hug and offers safety even in the face of heavy themes like depression, suicide, and domestic abuse (some readers may benefit from being able to talk through these subjects with a trusted friend or adult). Schoenbohm deftly captures the spirit of each character, from the wise and generous Evangeline to the feisty and untrusting Faith, who feel genuine as their layers are slowly revealed. VERDICT A moving tale in the vein of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Clare Vanderpool’s Moon over Manifest; sure to resonate with upper middle grade readers and adults.