I had read, previousy, another book by Irene Hunt, Across Five Aprils, a story set during the American Civil War. I found it interesting and thoughtful, so I expected the same from Up a Road Slowly. I wasn't disappointed.
Told in the first person, this is the story of young Julie, who has gone to live with her maiden Aunt Cordelia after her mother has died. It is too formidable a task for her grieving father to care for the traumatized Julie and her brother in the wake of his wife's death, so they are shipped off to live with his wife's relatives in the country-side for the time being. Sharing the household is Cordelia's brother, ne'er do well Uncle Haskell.
Over the years that follow, Julie experiences everyday pleasures, friendships, disappointments, and always learns more about life and herself. She suffers through jealousy as her beloved older sister marries, and then has a child. Growth happens when she begins to understand about Number One Spot, Number Two Spot, etc, and that she is, rightfully, no longer at that level in that relationship.
A disturbing fact of childhood relationships rears its ugly head when Aggie is introduced. Aggie is the not-too-bright, annoying, dirty, unloved, poor, ostracised girl who is unable to be tolerated by her classmates. In spite of Julie being encouraged to be kind to Aggie, she does not do well in that, to the point of cancelling her birthday party rather than having to invite Aggie to it. I suspect that reading this section will bring uncomfortable feelings to mind of the reader's own past of not being kind to the outcast classmate.
This book is an enjoyable read, layered with stories and subplots that make up Julie's life as she grows up.
The only thing I found a sort of bumpiness to was the way that it wrapped up. The majority of the book details her younger years. There is a sort of acceleration in the telling as she ages. To me, it almost felt like an extended epilog, the last several chapters. I'm glad to find out "what happens to her" as she graduates high school, etc., but I find myself losing the emotional investment in her story as she ages out.
I bought this book at the thrift store for a buck and a half.