Literary Lists · Reading Challenge 2016

10 times Because of Winn-Dixie moved me

Book review - Because of Winn-DixieIt’s a curious exercise, thinking about why something moved you. Reading Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie* last weekend, I wondered, Why can’t I stop the water from leaking out of my eyes?! (Something that also tends to happen when I read Brian Selznick’s books!) It wasn’t just during the sad bits, either. It was non-stop waterworks and sniffling and nose blowing. Sounds attractive, eh?

The novel is about and narrated by a young girl, India Opal Buloni. Opal (as she is called) has just moved to a new town with her preacher father. Her mother abandoned the family when she was very small. Being in a new place with no friends intensifies Opal’s loneliness and triggers deep longing for her lost mother.

Shopping for her father at Winn-Dixie one summer day, she encounters a raggedy stray dog wreaking havoc in the supermarket. She decides to adopt him and names him for the store where the two met. Her act of compassion brings beautiful moments into her life. Through friendly, extroverted Winn-Dixie, Opal makes new friends around town, who she brings together for an enchanting evening.

If you like to feel, to be moved, to experience profound connection to humanity, this book is for you.** Seriously, an ocean of tears during the two wee hours it took me to read this powerful novel.

I’ve been thinking about where its power lies. I believe it’s in the novel’s rawness. It confronts the aching need we all have to connect, to feel part of something bigger than our isolated selves. It recognizes how hard it can be to open our hearts as we accumulate fears from past experiences and how necessary it is to continue opening our hearts.

Here are ten moments that felt true, beautiful, and (of course) moving:

“I could feel her listening with all her heart, and it felt good.”

“You can’t always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now.”

“It was important to me to hear how LIttmus survived after losing everything he loved.”

“Littmus W. Block figured the world was a sorry affair and that it had enough ugly things in it and what he was going to do was concentrate on putting something sweet in it.”

“It is a sorrow-filled world.”

“[T]he sweet and the sad were all mixed together and how hard it was to separate them out. It was confusing.”

“Sometimes, it seemed like everybody in the world was lonely.”

“I believe, sometimes, that the whole world has an aching heart.”

“We appreciate the complicated and wonderful gifts you give us in each other, and we appreciate the task you put down before us, of loving each other the best we can, even as you love us.” (This was the preacher’s beautiful blessing before a meal.)

“There ain’t no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.”

And it was already on my bookshelf. Yay, #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks!

** And for a hefty adult novel that achieves a similar effect, dig into David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – definitely one of, if not the, most moving books I read in 2015.

8 thoughts on “10 times Because of Winn-Dixie moved me

  1. First of all: The subsription thingee works – I found out about this post by email! Woo-hoo! No more missed posts!

    Secondly: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book. I know it’s a favorite among many of my friends and siblings…but I could never bring myself to read it because I’m almost sure the dog dies. I mean, there are lots of other horribly sad things that happen in literature and otherwise, but nothing beats a loyal animal companion dying. Nothing. Even with severe arachnophobia, “Charlotte’s Web” ruined me for a while. And yet, I was glad I’d read it (and watched the cartoon). So I know I should suck it up and read this book. And maybe the dog doesn’t even die and I’ve just been avoiding it for no reason. Maybe I’ll cautiously add it to my reading list. But if the dog does die, I’ll be sort of mad at you. 🙂

    1. Yay, so glad to hear it works, and thank you for subscribing! 🙂 So I’m just going to say, the dog doesn’t die. I don’t even really consider this a spoiler because he’s never in danger. So you can enjoy the book and its surprises knowing no dogs are harmed in the telling of the story. Now go read this book! 😉

  2. Yess!!! Thank you for that great news. I will now be adding it to my reading list with a lighter heart (even though you mention the book still choked you up, so there could be other deaths or tragedies involved – but thank goodness it’s not the dog!)!

    1. I can’t believe I didn’t say this in the post! It moved me because of how it captured an essential paradox of life, not because of any tragedy. I think what I love best of all about the emotion this story evokes: There’s no artifice, no manipulation, no manufactured emotion. It’s just … life. I’m so thankful for your comments, Alysa! You’ve helped me articulate something I hadn’t! 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you thought my comments were helpful. Thank YOU for everything you write. Reading your blog makes me so happy – I get to plunge into a world of books and talking about things like reading and how we experience different literary works. These are not conversations I often have in my ordinary life, alas. That’s also why I sometimes get a little carried away and go on probably way too long in the comments – I can’t help myself!

    1. Please don’t stop writing comments, long or otherwise! Reading, thinking about, and responding to them is one of the best parts of my day. 🙂

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