Book Review: Baby by Patricia MacLachlan

My 10 year old tossed Baby by Patricia MacLachlan at the end of her bed last night. “That was sad” was her only comment.

Having an attraction to “sad” books, I immediately grabbed it and began reading it while putting my toddler to sleep. I stayed there until I finished. When I finished my side was numb and I had tears running down my face. What a beautiful book.

Patricia MacLachlan has a rare gift among storytellers. She writes stories poetically. I don’t mean she uses poetic phrases, as so many good authors do, but she composes poetically. She turns simple words, that could be read by any second grader, and makes a story that reads like one big poem. Each word is savored, never wasted. The wonderful thing is that readers none too fond of poetry would never have guessed that they just read a poem disguised as a story.

Baby (1993, Delacorte Press) might be my favorite among her stories. The author is probably best known for Sarah, Plain and Tall. Even non-readers may be familiar with the Hallmark movie version of the story. That book, although poetically written, translates well into a dramatic reproduction. Baby would not work so well.

Baby is about words and the power of words and the destruction in lives when words are withheld. Like a good layer cake, it is also about loss, pain, cycles, giving, and healing.

Twelve-year-old Larkin lives with her mom and dad on an island year round. The story opens at the end of summer, as the last summer ferry carries the tourists away until the next summer. One little island “guest” is left behind at Larkin’s home. An almost year old baby, Sophie, has been left by her mother with a note attached telling the family that “I will come back for her one day.” Sophie becomes the catalyst which brings about healing in Larkin’s family.

As the family takes in Sophie, they uncover the pain surrounding the loss of Larkin’s newborn brother, “Baby,” six months prior. Larkin’s parents never talk about him, never named him, and through their silence have isolated each other from themselves and from their daughter. The story unfolds beautifully as Larkin’s family cycles through fear of love, love for Sophie, then once again has to face loss again, when Sophie’s mother returns in the spring to claim her. During the story, Larkin discovers poetry and how words are “wondrous” and powerful, and through this power Larkin and her family find their way back from loss and pain.

Baby speaks powerfully to foster care, too. Larkin’s grandmother, with foresight, has the following conversation with Larkin:

“This is not meant to be easy,” she said, “It is a very important thing to do, for Sophie and especially for your mother and father. But it will not be easy. Do you understand?”

I understood. I did. I knew that what she meant was what Papa had said. Sophie was not ours. Someday she would go away. Another thing to miss.

“Why is it important?” I asked her…

“It is important, Larkin, because we are giving Sophie something to take away with her when she goes.”

“What?” asked Lalo [Larkin’s friend]. “What will she take with her?”

“Us,” said Byrd firmly.

“And what will we have when she’s gone?” I asked .

Byrd is silent. It takes the rest of the book for Larkin to have her answer.

I had a wonderful conversation this morning with my daughter about the book and the power of words. We were reminded of how God spoke world into being and how Jesus is called the Word made flesh. Words are ordained by our Creator to hold power…power to heal and soothe, and also power to hurt. MacLachlin’s book addresses how the absence of words can be just as harmful as the ill-used word and what blessings may flow when words are used to heal.


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18 Comments

Filed under Babies & Kids, Book Reviews, Homeschooling, Words and Writing

18 responses to “Book Review: Baby by Patricia MacLachlan

  1. I just stumble onto your blog today (I plan to homeschool soon and tagged the term). What a lovely book review. I wanto to read it for myself. Thanks for sharing.

    Denelle in TN

  2. Jeanne

    Wonderful post – I can’t wait to read it! Love that it applies to Foster Care!

  3. Sounds like a great book. I’ll have to look for it next time I’m at Salvation Army scouring the bookshelves!

  4. Jill,

    What a wonderful review. Missed out on your blogs, can’t wait to catch up. You shouldn’t limit yourself to the internet…real, print magazines need reviews like yours!

    Much Love,
    Michelle

  5. i hate her books they make me puke

  6. i wish you wold stop makeing them boooooooo ur book smell like a dirty diper to me stop writing p laes

  7. kristen

    My 10 year old tossed Baby by Patricia MacLachlan at the end of her bed last night. “That was sad” was her only comment.

    Having an attraction to “sad” books, I immediately grabbed it and began reading it while putting my toddler to sleep. I stayed there until I finished. When I finished my side was numb and I had tears running down my face. What a beautiful book.

    Patricia MacLachlan has a rare gift among storytellers. She writes stories poetically. I don’t mean she uses poetic phrases, as so many good authors do, but she composes poetically. She turns simple words, that could be read by any second grader, and makes a story that reads like one big poem. Each word is savored, never wasted. The wonderful thing is that readers none too fond of poetry would never have guessed that they just read a poem disguised as a story.

    Baby (1993, Delacorte Press) might be my favorite among her stories. The author is probably best known for Sarah, Plain and Tall. Even non-readers may be familiar with the Hallmark movie version of the story. That book, although poetically written, translates well into a dramatic reproduction. Baby would not work so well.

    Baby is about words and the power of words and the destruction in lives when words are withheld. Like a good layer cake, it is also about loss, pain, cycles, giving, and healing.

    Twelve-year-old Larkin lives with her mom and dad on an island year round. The story opens at the end of summer, as the last summer ferry carries the tourists away until the next summer. One little island “guest” is left behind at Larkin’s home. An almost year old baby, Sophie, has been left by her mother with a note attached telling the family that “I will come back for her one day.” Sophie becomes the catalyst which brings about healing in Larkin’s family.

    As the family takes in Sophie, they uncover the pain surrounding the loss of Larkin’s newborn brother, “Baby,” six months prior. Larkin’s parents never talk about him, never named him, and through their silence have isolated each other from themselves and from their daughter. The story unfolds beautifully as Larkin’s family cycles through fear of love, love for Sophie, then once again has to face loss again, when Sophie’s mother returns in the spring to claim her. During the story, Larkin discovers poetry and how words are “wondrous” and powerful, and through this power Larkin and her family find their way back from loss and pain.

    Baby speaks powerfully to foster care, too. Larkin’s grandmother, with foresight, has the following conversation with Larkin:

    “This is not meant to be easy,” she said, “It is a very important thing to do, for Sophie and especially for your mother and father. But it will not be easy. Do you understand?”

    I understood. I did. I knew that what she meant was what Papa had said. Sophie was not ours. Someday she would go away. Another thing to miss.

    “Why is it important?” I asked her…

    “It is important, Larkin, because we are giving Sophie something to take away with her when she goes.”

    “What?” asked Lalo [Larkin’s friend]. “What will she take with her?”

    “Us,” said Byrd firmly.

    “And what will we have when she’s gone?” I asked .

    Byrd is silent. It takes the rest of the book for Larkin to have her answer.

    I had a wonderful conversation this morning with my daughter about the book and the power of words. We were reminded of how God spoke world into being and how Jesus is called the Word made flesh. Words are ordained by our Creator to hold power…power to heal and soothe, and also power to hurt. MacLachlin’s book addresses how the absence of words can be just as harmful as the ill-used word and what blessings may flow when words are used to heal.

  8. lizgrace

    this is a great book it is the best book i have ever read i think she should make a second babby because the book rocks love it!

    love,
    your friend

  9. lizgrace

    ur books are the best books in the world i think u should make more like the book babby.we had to pick a author for are report on authors and i pick u i didnt realy want to read the books u have rote but i pick a book that rock its called Babby.like i said i think u should make a nother babby book and it should be the same people and the mother comes back but she leaves the babby there wich is a kid bcause sophie doesnt love her and doesnt now her and she wants to stay not go.

    love,
    the best gyle

    yayayayayayayayayayayyyayayayayayayayayayayayayayyayayyayayayayayayahyayayayayayayayayayayayayayayayayayayyayaya

  10. im a tween and this is pretty powerful and some of u ppl or weird

  11. Sarah Beth

    i just finished re-reading this book minutes ago. i’ve read it mulitpule times sence i was 10, and it will always be in my top 10 favorite books. (:

  12. jj

    heyyyyyyyy
    great book i read it all the time

    i love it

    thanks…
    jj

  13. yeahgirl

    i’ve just finished the book, googled it, and stumbled upon your blog. that’s exactly how i would describe her writing–not a word wasted. 🙂

    another author whom I like, who shares a similar writing style is Natalie Babbit.

  14. What a cool article. I really enjoy reading these types or posts. I look forward to see what others have to say.

  15. one of my absolute favorite books… i have read it over and over and over and still cry!

  16. Pingback: Maclachlan and rote | Zxr12

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