Study Guide

Louise in Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse


The Other Woman. The Wicked Stepmother. The Second Wife. Women who get hitched to previously married men often get some pretty bad stereotypes thrown at them, but fortunately Louise, Daddy's lady friend and future wife at the end of the book, seems like she'll be the one who gives stepmamas a better name.

Louise only appears in the last part of the book, but she gets her very own chapter, and it gives us some pretty solid information about her. We learn that she was Daddy's night school teacher in the class he decided to take to expand his horizons (or find a lady—the verdict's still out on this one); plus she is highly educated and a hard worker. Apparently she thought she was cool with the single life, but when she met the dashing Bayard Kelby (110.2), she changed her tune.

And it's a good thing too, since she winds up really rocking Billie Jo's world. Louise is a great cook, has awesome people skills, and—according to the last chapter of the book—wears fabulous hats. If you must have a stepmother, fabulous hats can only help the situations as far as we're concerned.

The best part about Louise, though, is that she understands the sticky situation she's entering into in relating to Billie Jo. Losing your mom is bad enough, but losing her in a tragic accident when she's pregnant and you bear some of the responsibility is downright awful. Louise understands this and doesn't try to force her way into the family's life. While Billie Jo cites a lot of stuff she likes about Louise, she tells us:

What I like best about her / is Louise doesn't say what I should do. / She just nods / And I know she's heard everything I said. (106.8)

Louise is a good listener, understands the hurt Billie Jo's experienced, and wants to support her. Billie Jo may have lost her mom, but life only looks up once Louise arrives on the scene.