The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
In my Barnes and Noble spree, I saw a children’s/young adult novel that had an intriguing title and a lot of awards affixed to it. I had not heard of The War that Saved My Life, but the premise sounded interesting. After all, children’s and YA books about World War II greatly interest me (The Book Thief, anyone?). I was not prepared for how heavy this book was. It sounds like a negative endorsement, and I promise you it’s not, but damn. There is a LOT going on. Like Roxane Gay, I’m not huge on trigger warnings, because of censorship, but there is detailed physical and emotional abuse, and it’s really quite traumatic. I’ve never been abused, and the book definitely made me feel really depressed for good chunks of it.
Ada Smith and her younger brother Jamie live in abject poverty with a cruel and abusive mother. Jamie runs around on the docks, while Ada, who was born with a clubfoot, is forced to crawl around on all fours and stay in the house. Their mother often deprives Ada of food and makes her sleep in a cupboard if she’s been “naughty.” When the evacuations of children are mandated in London, Jamie is decreed to be sent away. Ada decides to run away with him. She teaches herself to walk, and then she steals her mother’s shoes to walk to the train station. Finally, she and Jamie end up in a village living with a single woman who doesn’t like children. And it is there that redemption finds all three of them. But can they survive the war? And will Ada’s mother catch up to them?
Like I said, this is a worthwhile book, but have a happy book in reserve. This book is like Harry Potter’s time at the Dursley’s crossed with The Secret Garden. So make of that what you will.