Post #32: Dancing in the Cadillac Light

Dancing in the Cadillac Light by Kimberly Willis Holt

Post number thirty-two is for Kimberly Willis Holt's Dancing in the Cadillac Light. This is a book that I've looked at ever since I started working in the school library, as it's one that gets checked out fairly frequently. I decided to go ahead and read it – it didn't take very long, and had a sort of "can't put down" quality – and, while I thought it was a well-written book and I enjoyed the aspects of it, I'm not sure why it's so popular with the kids, as it is decidedly not modern.

Spoilers follow.









The main protagonist in this story is Jaynell, a twelve-year-old girl who lives in a small town (Moon) in Texas (the story takes place right before Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, just to give you an idea of the time period). Jaynell has a mother and father, and a younger sister, Racine. Racine is all girl, whereas Jaynell is a tomboy. Her father even refers to her as "boy" or "guy", which makes me wonder if she was tomboyish only because it appeared her father wanted her to be (possibly to make up for not having a son instead?). Jaynell's grandfather has lost his wife, and had been living with Jaynell's aunt, Loveda, and her family. However, Loveda's convinced her father's going senile, and wants to put him in a nursing home. Jaynell's mother and father don't want to do this, so instead they have him move in to their house.

Jaynell considers herself "Grandpap's" favorite, and is pleased he's going to live with them. However, he is sort of odd and does "strange" things: the strangest of which are befriending the local "white trash" family (Jaynell's words, not mine!) and buying a Cadillac. Grandpap dies a little later in the book, and it's discovered that he let this family move in to his old house (called the "homeplace"). Jaynell knew about it but didn't tell her family, and it's not discovered until they all headed over there after the funeral. Loveda and her husband immediately want to kick the family out, but Jaynell's mother is uncertain. Circumstances conspire together to create the ending of the story, but I don't want to give it all away so won't mention it. :))

The Cadillac is left with Jaynell's parents. Loveda and Jaynell's mom want to sell it, but Jaynell's dad wants to keep it to drive himself (he definitely sees it as a status symbol). There's a bit of "Gift of the Magi" thrown in, and needless to say the Cadillac is sold. The money is used to buy Jaynell a new pair of shoes, and to give Racine dance lessons, although Jaynell's dad is furious with his wife for selling the Cadillac without telling him. Also, Jaynell goes through a very mean, spiteful period when it comes to the Pickens family, which isn't really sorted out until the end. I found myself at times really hating Jaynell, and really hating her parents; if nothing else, I can't remember a book that I've read recently where I had such a reaction to the characters, so that I suppose is something.

Anyway, it was a good book, a fast read, and was worth the time it took.

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