Monday, March 24, 2014

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

"The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield's father promised he wouldn't go away to fight—but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn't know where his father might be, other than that he's away on a special, secret mission. Then, while shining shoes at King's Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father's name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by—a hospital treating soldiers with shell shock. Alfie isn't sure what shell shock is, but he is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place. . . ."

Alfie Summerfield is just about as charming and precocious as you'd want to see in a young character in a book. This story warmed my heart from the start, as Alfie takes the place of his father while he is off to war. This precious child sees the world around him falling apart while his father is off fighting. To help make ends meet, Alfie takes to skipping school in order to shine shoes at the train station. Alfie hasn't seen or heard from his dad in ages, and with soldiers arriving with bad news on the daily, Alfie's sure his dad has surely been killed. But alas, he finds out through one of his customer's missteps that his dad, Georgie Summerfield, is at the local hospital suffering from "shell shock." I think in modern times, we would call this severe PTSD caused by the trauma of war. Alfie decides that his home is a much safer place for his dad to be. Will home be the best place for Georgie? One will need to pick John Boyne's Stay Where You Are and Then Leave  to find out what really happens. I enjoyed the realistic portrayal of this period in history, and think the author has done a fine job writing this book for middle grade readers. 

The Parent Pair 

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
"Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life---children, careers, bills, chores---even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a solider she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own---for everything that matters to his family. At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope."

This book truly opened my eyes to the tragedies of war of which I was blithely unaware. A truly honest look at the toll that war takes on a family. Her gripping description of amputation, and what happens to your body was memorable and haunting. I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the plight of a soldier and his or her family. It was a phenomenal book. I zipped through the pages of this book, and have been a long-time Kristin Hannah fan. 

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