"Once, oh marvelous once, there was a rabbit who found his way home." (p. 200, the last line of the book)
Edward Tulane, a china rabbit, is loved and petted and dressed in fine silk suits by a little girl who loves him. But Edward is hollow and spoiled and does not love Abilene back.
Then, as Abilene and Edward set out on a sea voyage, Edward is lost.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, is the story of Edward's journey, recounting not only Edward's journey through the world and his encounters with many different people, but his inner awakening as well, as Edward learns the meaning of friendship, love, and loss. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane brought to mind a children's classic, one of my favorites, The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams). The value of Edward's journey, however, is not in being loved but in learning to love; he becomes real inside rather than outwardly.
The tale of Edward Tulane's awakening ability to love is not sentimental and insipid. The characters are charming and spot-on, not overdone. And while Edward learns to love, his is a quiet awakening, and he also learns about loss, real loss, and what it can do to one's heart. Edward's simple thoughts and story make the tale of his journey work without tipping over into maudlin sentiment thanks to Camillo's clean spare prose. Even the most heart-wrenching scene in the novel is bearable because she offers only what is necessary and trusts the reader to bring their own hearts and imaginations to the story. I won't give away the details, but I was able to read that scene without blurry eyes and a squeaky voice, though we all had tears at the edges of our eyes.
My favorite part was Edward's encounter with the old doll in the doll shop. She tells a broken-hearted Edward, "You must be filled with expectancy. You must be awash with hope. You must wonder who will love you, whom you will love next." And when Edward replies that he is done with love, that love is too painful, she replies "You disappoint me greatly. If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless."
The story is lovely, the message is valuable, the characters are charming, the writing makes it a pleasure to read silently or out loud. And, in the interests of full disclosure, though I made it through the heart-wrenching scene in the middle of the book, I did read the ending with a quavery voice, blinking away tears so that I could see the words. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane has earned a spot on our favorites shelf.