Up A Road Slowly
is a poignant work of children’s fiction by American author Irene Hunt, published in 1966. The narrative follows the protagonist, Julie Trelling, as she grows in maturity from seven to seventeen years of age while living with Aunt Cordelia and Uncle Haskell. Hunt’s narrative addresses themes of grief, loss, growing up, responsibility, family, and the concept of home. The year after its publication, Up a Road Slowly
won a Newbery Medal from The Association for Library Service to Children.
Seven-year-old elementary school student Julie Trelling is diagnosed with hysteria when her mother dies. Though Julie lives with her father, her brother, Chris, and her sister, Laura, her doctors believe that she will benefit from a change of scenery, so Julie is sent to live with Aunt Cordelia and Uncle Haskell. Her relatives live in a large house outside of town. Aunt Cordelia is an unmarried schoolteacher, while Uncle Haskell, who lives in a converted carriage house on the property, is an alcoholic, a pathological liar, and an aspiring writer.
Initially, Julie doesn’t like her new environment. Aunt Cordelia, who runs the local schoolhouse, is a strict teacher and guardian. In one of the narrative plots, Aunt Cordelia asks Julie to be nice to a student named Aggie Kilpin. Aggie is malnourished, as well as suffering from other ailments. Julie, however, never befriends the girl. When Aggie dies from a fever, Julie suffers a crisis of identity brought on by guilt. This event effectively changes Julie’s outlook on life, and she sets about being a better person. In time, Julie matures and becomes the type of well-mannered girl that Aunt Cordelia wishes her to be. Additional issues, however, such as when her father and high school English teacher marry, test Julie’s growth and feelings of belonging.
Another plot point in the narrative involves Julie’s relationship with Brett Kingsman. Brett is a popular and handsome boy in high school, and Julie is overjoyed that he has taken an interest in her. Her attachment to Brett comes at the expense of her attachment to Danny Trevort, a childhood friend for whom she has feelings. Danny is jealous of the relationship between Julie and Brett. Brett, however, only wants Julie for a girlfriend so that she can do his schoolwork for him. When Julie eventually realizes Brett’s true intentions, she breaks up with him. Though suffering from a broken heart, Julie comes to realize that she has really only had feelings for Danny. The two profess their attraction for one another one day and become a couple, to everyone’s delight. By the narrative’s end, Julie, graduating high school as the valedictorian, is ready to explore life in college. Though she and Danny will attend colleges that are far away from one another, they know that their love will remain strong despite the distance.Up A Road Slowly
chronicles the joys and pains of growing up. Though Julie loses her mother, she gains role models in the guise of her friends and relatives. Aunt Cordelia is strict, but she’s also loving and maternal. She helps mold Julie into the caring young adult that she becomes. Though Uncle Haskell’s life is nothing as he pretends it is, his duplicity serves to show Julie that she should only ever be who she is. Julie’s brother, Chris, also helps to guide some of her actions, as does Laura. Julie often wonders what Laura would do when faced with a difficult decision, and Chris is instrumental in helping Julie come to terms initially with her new life outside of town with Aunt Cordelia.
Irene Hunt was a well-known writer of children’s literature. Her first book, Across Five Aprils,
was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal. Other works include No Promises in the Wind
, The Everlasting Hills
, and Trail of Apple Blossoms
. Born in 1907 in Illinois, she died in 2001.