________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 5. . . .October 4, 2013


The Sewing Basket.

Susan White.
Charlottetown, PE: Acorn Press, 2013.
122 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-894838-99-3.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Kay Weisman.

** /4



What is it that I want?
I want my mother to not have Huntington’s disease.
I want to still live at 619 Regent Street.
I want my parents to not be divorced.
I want Dad still living with us.
I want no Deborah.
I want this baby to be my whole sister or brother, not half, and I want it to live in my house, not the house they just bought on Westmorland Street.
I want to not have to worry about getting Huntington’s disease.


In 1967, 12-year old Ruthie Iverson and her father are struggling to care for Ruthie’s mother who has recently been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. As a respite from all this sadness, Ruthie takes comfort in watching the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup, following the news of the day (including the marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and the birth of Priscilla Presley), and spending summers at her family’s cottage in New Brunswick. About midway through the story, Dad, unable to cope with his wife’s progressing illness, abandons both Ruthie and her mother, leaving Ruthie (now 13) and a daytime caregiver to shoulder the entire burden on their own. By the story’s end, 14-year-old Ruthie has accomplished none of her “wants,” but she seems more accepting of her lot in life.

     The author’s strength is her attention to 1960s pop culture details which liberally pepper this somber story, adding much needed levity. White is less successful in creating a focused plot and believable characters. White writes pages of set up for Ruthie and Dad’s much-anticipated trip to Expo 67, then skips over the actual event. Mom’s physical impairments are never clearly spelled out—sometimes she lacks bowel and bladder control; other times she can dance. And it seems improbable that Ruthie could manage the entire weekday, overnight care for her mother without adult help. Finally, Ruthie’s complete turnaround and forgiveness of her father remains unconvincing—a final example of how White tells, but does not show. This complex and difficult subject with no easy answers is better handled by Nancy Werlin in Double Helix (2004).

Recommended with reservations.

Kay Weisman, a long time librarian and reviewer, now writes “Information Matters” for School Library Monthly and works as a youth librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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