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The Compulsive Reader: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada, unloved and deemed worthless by her mother because of her club foot, has never left her one-room flat in London. Her entire world consists of what she can see from her window, what her younger brother Jamie tells her of outside, and her mother's cruelty. But when the threat of German bombs sends the children of London to the countryside, Ada cleverly sneaks away with them, and discovers a big world that's full of all kinds of uncertainties, including love and heartbreak.

This novel reminded me a bit of Music of the Dolphins in the way that it is told from Ada's ignorant perspective. Her entire life has been constrained to one room, and when it suddenly opens up, Ada and the reader are both overwhelmed with details that most people would take for granted--the unevenness of a London street, or the shock of seeing one's own face in the mirror for the first time. The story is filtered through Ada's unique perspective, which presents its own challenges (such as Ada's inability to trust and her stubbornness when it comes to education), but also some beautiful moments of exploration as Ada learns to ride, and starts on a path towards emotional healing.

The emotional arc of this story is strong, and beautifully rendered. Ada and her brother Jamie both carry the effects of their mother's ill treatment, but they find love and refuge with Susan, a single woman who is still grieving from the loss of her best friend (and I presume partner) three years earlier. Despite Susan's many bumbles and Ada and Jamie's trauma, they create a life together amidst the uncertainty of wartime. The love they find may not be enough to stop the atrocities of war from reaching their lives, but it is enough to save their lives. This is a beautiful novel about hope and resilience through trauma, where the characters find fulfillment not in fixing their bodies or changing their stations, but in the relationships they create.

Book purchased from my indie! This is a Newbery Honor book, too--so well deserved.

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