A Master Plan for Rescue

A significant amount of my reading time is spent in children’s literature. With nine children in the house and all of them eager for a steady stream of books, it can keep me quite busy. However, this summer I took a moment to take a peek at the new adult fiction shelf. A Master Plan for Rescue (Janis Cooke Newman) caught my eye and found its way into my book bag.

It’s 1942 and we travel to New York and meet a young boy. His simple life with two loving parents begins unraveling with the unexpected death of his father and his mother’s overwhelming grief. In Berlin, a young man falls in love with a beautiful woman who is dying. His time with her is a long goodbye.

The lives of the young boy and the young man meet and find that their grief draws them together in a unique way. Both want to make a difference in the world for those that they have lost. Deep in their hearts, they both believe that in helping someone else, they will somehow bring those they have lost close to them again.

Set during World War II, A Master Plan for Rescue definitely weaves in historical aspects of this time period. However, the strong pull of this book is in the relationships. Beautiful, deep, bittersweet relationships. My heart broke for Jack when he lost his father. A boy who loved his father so deeply can not bring himself to accept that his father is gone. He imagines how his father escaped the accident. Jack decides that he will help find Nazis and then his father will come back home. His heart refuses to let his dad go.

Jakob, a Jewish young man, has fallen in love with a beautiful woman. And she is dying. Jakob knows that as a Jew he needs to leave Berlin. However, his beloved will not go as she is dying. Jakob continually fights for her to come with him. Ultimately she forces him to leave without her before it is too late.

Jakob’s and Jack’s lives meet and have before them a heroic deed…..the love for those they have lost drive them to do the impossible.

A Master Plan for Rescue has been one of the best adult fiction books I have read in some time. The stories of Jack and Jakob were gripping and I was compelled to finish the book as quickly as possible. Janis Cook Newman wove together such a beautiful story. I think she captured the thoughts and heart of a young boy like Jack so well.

While grief is one of the forces pushing the characters forward, there is more to the book than just sadness. There is joy and laughter. Friendships. Love. Beauty.

We can easily view history as a broad brush stroke across a canvas. A Master Plan for Rescue shows us that history is not this broad stroke of a brush. History is a young boy and a young man driven by love to become heroes.

Black Dove, White Raven

Black Dove, White Raven is the latest young adult fiction novel by Elizabeth Wein. Once again Wein grips us with the story of two young people facing challenging circumstances. After a stunt flying accident, Emilia and Teo become more than friends; they become sister and brother. Teo’s mom dies in the plane accident and Rhoda (Emilia’s mom) takes him as her adopted son. In the 1930s such an act of love was not widely accepted as Emilia is white and Teo is black.

To fulfill the dream of Teo’s mother, Rhoda brings Emilia and Teo to Ethiopia, the home of Teo’s deceased father. Here there was hope that the color of her children’s skin would not be an issue for their family. Emilia and Teo both come to love the land of Ethiopia, a beautiful, peaceful country. Things quickly change when Italy threatens war.

The war becomes personal for Emilia and Teo as they are both unwillingly drawn into the conflict. What does this war mean for their lives in Ethiopia? Will their family be torn apart? What will Teo’s Ethiopian heritage mean for his future?

I must make a confession. I attempted to read Black Dove, White Raven several times. I would read a page or two and put it to the side. For some reason the story was not engaging me or capturing my interest. Then I told myself to trust the author. Wein had weaved a beautiful, bittersweet story in Code Name: Verity and Rose Under Fire. Their stories were complete so I needed to shift my mind to a new story.

As I picked up the book again, I found myself gently pulled into Emilia’s and Teo’s lives. This book leads you a bit slower with a gentle pull to the depths of Emilia and Teo. This slower paced pull flows beautifully with the the land of Ethiopia during this time period. Before you realize it, their story has gripped you. And not just their story but the Ethiopian people as well. In all my studies and readings in history, this war between Ethiopia and Italy in the 1930s had never been encountered. My view of Ethiopia has been challenged and broaden by Black Dove, White Raven.

I definitely recommend adding this to your To Be Read pile or as a good addition for history readings for your teen. All three of my teens read Black Dove, White Raven (16, 15, & 13). My two daughters were familiar with Wein’s writings and agree that this is another well done book. My son’s reading of Black Dove was his first encounter with Wein’s writings and he was left speechless when he was done. Thank you Elizabeth Wein for another amazing read.

Have your read Black Dove, White Raven? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

I often hear of a book or read a review and I think, “I really need to read that book” or “Hmm, that sounds interesting”. For various reasons I fail to add the book to my to read list or forget about it. This is what happened with Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. I remember seeing it mentioned somewhere and thinking it would be a good read. Then I never read it.

Now a movie has been made and we are preparing to view this production. Being the book lover that I am, I could not watch the film without reading the book Unbroken first. All too often the movie is not capable of capturing the essence, the emotions, the atmosphere of a story. So I read….

Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini. We learn about his very active and adventurous childhood, his journey to the Olympics, and then his trying experience during World War II. Louis served as a bombardier on a B-24 plane and survived a crash with two other men. After an amazing  time of forty-seven days in a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two will reach land. At this point, Louis faces one of the hardest times of his life: life in a POW camp.

“Such beauty, he thought, was too perfect to have come about by mere chance. That day in the center of the Pacific was, to him, a gift crafted deliberately, compassionately, for him and Phil. Joyful and grateful in the midst of slow dying, the two men bathed in that day until sunset brought is, and their time in the doldrums, to an end.”

I have hesitated sharing my thoughts on this book. It is one of those times where I have many thoughts and emotions. So often when we read about World War II the focus is on Germany, Hitler, the Holocaust. The story of Louis Zamperini takes us to face the Japanese side of this war. I appreciated learning more about this aspect of WWII.

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”

Unbroken is not an easy read. The horrors that are experienced by Louis and the other soldiers is overwhelming at times. To see how human beings treat one another and for it to be acceptable makes me speechless. How much more can a man take? How much longer can he stand? At what point does he give up? When does he lose himself?

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.”

It was unbelievable at times to see what these men had come through. Again and again seeing the strength, endurance, perseverance, determination, and friendship push against the cruelty and inhumane treatment. These soldiers were not intent on just saving themselves but on helping their friends and companions.  I would love to share with you a beautiful moment from the book but in case you are like me and late in reading this, I don’t want to spoil it for you. I will say that God’s mercy and forgiveness are amazing and awesome.

If you have read Unbroken, I’d love to hear your thoughts.