The Year We Sailed The Sun
Back in the day Theresa Nelson acquired herself a mother-in-law
who had lived (or survived) a most unusual childhood. Instead of just
thinking "wow" (like most of us would have), she wanted to share her
story with the world. It took her quite awhile from inspiration to
product--longer than it took me to raise up my three children from
Amber's birth til Adam's high school graduation. But if you're lucky
enough to read The Year We Sailed The Sun you will consider it well
worth the time she invested.
The year is 1912; the settings are the Kerry Patch and the Bad
Lands, two of the toughest, most lawless, hardscrabble neighbors in
pre WWI St. Louis. Tomboy narrator Julia, 11, is an orphan. Her
grandmother who took her and her older sister in (both parents are
deceased) has just passed.
You gotta love her first sentences.
"I suppose I will go to hell for biting that nun.
Mary (sister) says it's a mortal sin, for sure.
Never mind. It was worth it. I would bite her again, if I got
Bill (brother) says Pop's down there frying already, so I won't
[If you can read that opening and not put that book on your
summer reading list, I don't want to know].
Julia (great name for a narrator BTW) is shooting marbles (still
in her funeral attire) when her reluctant temporary guardian hauls her
into the parlor where she comes face to face with two nuns ("...a big
one with a face like George Washington on a dollar bill, and a little-
bitty plump one, like a pigeon with spectacles...). Horrified, she
recognizes them as the orphan nuns. "...I'd seen 'en, marching their
charges to church on Sunday mornings. Drab-looking girls in brown-and-
white uniforms, each one homelier than the last, trudging down Morgan
Street with their eyes straight in front of them, past the pool halls
and the whiskey bars and the ramshackle floozy houses, tramping along
in lockstep, two by two."
Now the nuns have come for Julia and Mary.
The House Of Mercy: Industrial School and Girls' Home is all
Julia feared it would be and more. The plaid uniforms are not only
ugly, but uncomfortable. The girls are packed in like sardines. The
food is pretty much what you'd expect. Finances are always tight. In
fact, much to her chagrin, Julia becomes one of the girls taken round
to beg alms from the rich. The sisters are quite strict. Breaking
rules can lead to spending time in the sin room, a chamber little
bigger than a broom closet with no furnishings except a chair and
Julia is a very clever escape artist. As she gets around she
begins to understand not-so-savory episodes in her family's past. She
also learns why her brother is in mortal peril...
...unless she and her siblings can get away which would be a
miracle, a miracle she somehow has to achieve.
The Year We Sailed the Sun is one of the most delightful,
enthralling books I have read this year to date. The details bring
time and place vividly to life. Julia's voice is distinct and
On a personal note the Veazie school budget has been far from routine
this year. We (school committee) worked hard to come up with a budget
that would be realistic while not endangering the children's
education. The town council insisted we make drastic cuts. We
refused. They insisted again. We refused again. They put their
number on the referendum. We got the people to vote it down. Monday
we had a Nightmare on Main Street meeting between both those groups
and budget committee. But Tuesday when it was just School Committee
and Budget Committee we reached a compromise. Now if we can just sell
it to town council next Monday... If I could bring all the devout
nuns from the book to life, I would have them praying constantly
between now and then.
A great big shout out goes out to the children in Veazie and their
families and larger community on whose behalf we are working diligently.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod