All the long afternoon they sang, and talked, and ate, and Dicey didn’t think about her boats, the ones she was working on or the ones she was dreaming about, except once, when they came to the line in Momma’s old song that said “bring me a boat will carry two.” She could see that boat then, as real as if she had already built it.
Voigt won a Newberry Award for Dicey’s Song in 1983 and then used her next few books in this series to center characters other than Dicey. Now, in this final book she puts us back in Dicey’s shoes where our journey together began. This circling back serves the reader a little like resolution, though in truth, nothing is really resolved. Voigt manages to write these characters true to the end. They are deeply flawed people trying to find their way through a world that hasn’t been particularly kind. They make a lot of mistakes. And the cost is often quite high.
Hat Tip to my dad for following a trail and finding the 1986 Ian Tyson song Summer Wages, which the book title appears to be taken from.
Never hit seventeen
When you play against the dealer
You know that the odds
Won’t ride with you……
…..gambled and gone like summer wages…..
Loss and failure leave a trail through these pages, and there is plenty of grief. At times, circumstances and choices split these characters apart, sometimes forever. But along the way we get to see learning and growth. They pay attention, and don’t make the same mistake twice. They are remarkably different from each other in talents, skills, and personalities, but scrappy and resilient, all.
Early in this final book, Dicey and her family and friends are gathered during Christmas holiday, and in that scene they sing “Momma’s old song.” I did a little research to find that they are singing from The Water is Wide, and the lyrics fit exactly right:
The water is wide and I can’t cross over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row My love and I……
Dicey, the boat builder, her family, few friends, and beau. Dogged and determined. Against all the things.
And when the last page turns, they choose each other.