In Brief: A lightweight plot supported by interesting characters. The perils of an institutional upbringing vs the pleasures of a simple family home. Positive depiction of the possibilities still offered to and by an older generation.
Published in: 2002
Age Range: Young Teens
Setting: Semi-rural America
- Dallas & Florida are 13-year-old twin orphans, fiercely united, especially in the face of Mr & Mrs Trepid who run the orphanage where they've spent most of their lives, and of their would-be foster families, all of which have quickly tired of the twins' exuberance.
- Mr & Mrs Trepid are the slightly caricatured owners of a small-town orphanage, underfunded and overlooked, who believe that children should follow lots of rules and to whom the twins are a constant thorn in the side.
- Sairy & Tiller Morey are the gentle and wise elderly couple, living simply in the backwoods, who foster Dallas and Florida to keep them company as they each set out on a trip to spend some time apart in the evening of their lives.
- Z is Sairy & Tiller's neighbour in Ruby Holler, the clearing where they have their cabin. He appears to help the Trepids but is in fact loyal to his friends.
Sairy & Tiller, an elderly couple, foster Dallas & Florida and help them to appreciate that not everyone is an enemy. Their plans are to go, each with one of the children, on a long trip in order to experience life apart after a long life lived together. Their simple, trusting and occasionally quirky ways win the children over.
General: A gentle story about a pair of prickly and fiercely united twins and a elderly married couple, simple, wise, and occasionally grouchy, whose children have long since left home, and who want one last chance to see a little of the world and to take someone with them. As the children learn not to treat everyone as an enemy, Sairy & Tiller's eyes are opened to the appalling treatment given to the orphans by the orphanage owners and by the families who have fostered them.
It stops short of being sentimental, not least because the characters are real. Sairy & Tiller are not some make-believe ideal grandparents; they're occasionally opinionated, sometimes grumpy, but always ready to give another chance. Dallas & Florida take a while to overcome the ghosts of their previous bad trials at being fostered.
Family: Dallas & Florida were left outside the orphanage as babies, wrapped up carefully. Z discovers that their registered mother was his estranged wife, and that they are probably his children, but he says nothing about this. Sairy and Tiller are long-married with grown-up children, and easily accept Florida & Dallas, making many allowances for their ignorance. The Trepids are a mildly comic couple, running a heartless orphanage while naively planning on stealing from the Moreys and spending the money.
Belonging: The Morey household embodies the children's yearning for somewhere to belong. It is simple and handcrafted, from the quilts to the handcarvings which Sairy & Tiller teach the twins to do. The food is simple and attractive with evocative smells. At first the children plan on getting enough money to escape somewhere. This is surprisingly easy as Sairy & Tiller pay them to work around the place. When it comes to it, though, they find it difficult to go, and when they do leave one night, they wake up lost in the woods the next morning, with the elderly couple nearby cooking breakfast on a fire.
Sairy stared off across the hills. “Dallas, did you ever wonder what you were like without Florida?”
“How do you mean?”
Sairy took off her hat and rumpled her hair. “I mean, you two have always been together, your whole lives, but did you ever wonder if you'd be different if you weren't with her, if you were by yourself?”
Dallas kicked at the dirt with his boot. He felt as if he was going to throw up. He didn't like being without Florida. He didn't like Sairy's question either. “I'd still be who I am, wouldn't I? I'm without her now, aren't I? Am I different?”
Sairy studied him. “Too early to tell, I guess.”
“You've been with Tiller nearly your whole life. Are you different without him?”
“I don't know,” Sairy said. “Am I?”
“Too early to tell,” Dallas said.
“Guess we'd better move on. You've got the compass, right? Which way now?”
“Compass?” Dallas said.
Saturday 13th March 2004