Walking Across Egypt wouldn't have been on my radar if it hadn't been for my book club. I had never heard of this author before or any of his books. I decided to check it out in audio form and I think the narrator did a great job of telling the story, infusing the characters with their own voices and pausing in just the right moments. It was a bit slow at times, but I did enjoy it. It reminded me somewhat of the tales of Grandma Dowdel in Richard Peck's books. With an old fashioned flair and the clear character of an elderly woman, I was swept into the tale and felt I knew Mattie inside and out.
Mattie Rigsby, at age 78, is slowing down. When an old dog wanders into her yard, she realizes she has about as much business taking in a stray dog as she has of "walking across Egypt," (apparently the name of an old hymn). She calls the dogcatcher and ends up learning of his nephew, Wesley, a boy familiar with the hard knocks of life. Raised in an orphanage and now in a youth detention center due to the theft of a car, Wesley appears to Mattie to be "one of the least of these my brethren." She determines to take him a slice of pie and pound cake. What follows is a hilarious adventure as we delve further and further into the mind of this elderly woman and the plight of this wayward young man. She yearns for grandchildren, but her own children refuse to cooperate and get married. She serves up a helping heap of good food to everyone who comes her way.
With plenty of laughter injected into the story, this is a tale from yesteryear full of Southern charm. It includes ruminations on the necessity of good manners, the importance of family, the duty of compassion, the trials of children not taking the road you desire, and the need for a purpose in life. I delighted in the voice of Mattie and the imagination of Wesley. The whole cast of characters appealed to me.
Although the book is considered a young adult novel, I think it would probably appeal more to an older crowd than to teenagers today. It wasn't labeled as young adult at my library, but does have a review by the School Library Journal and has a special binding for school libraries. I noted at the end of the book that there is a sequel, called Killer Diller (which my library has, thankfully). Plus, it might be interesting to look into viewing the 1999 movie version of this book available on YouTube (although the casting of Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Wesley seems a bit too attractive for the character I saw in my mind's eye). I'm so glad this was our book selection for December.