‘Gypsy Camp’ a moving reminder of classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ | TheUnion.com

‘Gypsy Camp’ a moving reminder of classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

When the blurb on a book’s jacket likens it to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I put my hands on my hips and say, “Yeah, right.”

But the moving story told in “Lessons from the Gypsy Camp” by recently returned Sierra Foothills native Elizabeth Appell earns its praise. This story and its characters flung me right back to memories of Jeb and Scout and the unlikely but inspirational teachers found among their community’s misfits.

“Lessons from the Gypsy Camp” is set in the gold country in 1955. The town is near a levee, and though unnamed, will be recognized by locals as Marysville.

On the outside, 10-year-old Lolly Candolin’s life is everything a child could want – a Victorian home, a successful father and a beautiful mother. But inside the walls of their enviable house, Lolly’s unbending father and his excessive drinking bring his daughter to make a desperate and risky ultimatum: “Stop drinking or I’ll cut my hair.” Of course, this proves to be folly.

But Lolly is as strong willed as her father, making good on her threat. The heart-wrenching story that unfolds puts Lolly in touch with the socially undesirable but ultimately magical characters of the gypsy camp on the other side of the levee. Lolly is headstrong and heart led to the point of putting herself and others she loves in peril’s path in order to do what is right. Scout Finch would have been proud.

This is a story written with adult sensibilities, but with lessons that older teens and young adults would love as well. “Lessons from the Gypsy Camp” was honored with the Rebecca Reads Best Fiction Award for 2004. Appell is a multiple award-winning author and playwright. Her play “Moonwalkers” will be read in Los Angeles by Jamie Denton of “Desperate Housewives” fame. “Confessions of a Catholic Child” is being produced in spring of 2007 by the Virtual Theater Project Group of Los Angeles.

Nevada County is so much the richer for having this talented writer back home.


Betsy Graziani Fasbinder is a local writer and contributor to The Union. She and her family came to Nevada County in 2005, pleased to find a new home that welcomes artists, celebrates community and revels in its beautiful surroundings.

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