There are books that you enjoy. There are books that you love. Then, there are books that just hit the depths of your soul. I know it sounds so corny, but The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, will forever be a book that I cherish. It is beautifully written and told from the beginning until end. And thank goodness, Bradley has since released a sequel, title The War I Finally Won, or I would be sitting in a corner seriously mourning the end of this story. It’s just the greatest! If you call yourself a children’s literature lover, then this book needs to be on your list of must reads.
This story follows the life of Ada during the start of WWII, and it is located in the slums of London, England. Hitler and his Nazi control are starting to bring fear and threat into England. You can tell in the background of the story that war is brewing; however, you are more distracted and transfixed on the own war within Ada’s life and her circumstances. At the beginning of the story, you meet the tragic character of Ada. She is a young girl, living in horrible conditions, and dealing with an abusive and neglectful mother. Ada is an uneducated and unloved child staring at the world outside from her window. A world that she has never know due to the fact that her untreated club foot prevents her from being able to do anything but crawl. Around the age of ten years old, something in Ada pushes her to start fighting. In secret, Ada starts to train herself to walk. Each step is painful but each step is bringing Ada closer to something… something that she has no idea is still yet to come.
News spreads that the children on London are going to be evacuated for fear of the bombing and invading of the Nazi troops. Ada fears being left behind while her brother escapes to the country. In her fear, Ada and her brother, Jamie, flee in the middle of the night to join the rest of the children that are leaving London for their safety. Once in the country, Ada and Jamie are dropped on the doorstep of Susan Smith. Susan, herself, is a character dealing with her own loss and own personal secrets. A character I feel has so much more depth than what was acceptable in her time… a debate for the future! Hopefully, a conversation that I can have someday with Kimberly Brubaker Baker herself. (Anyone else have some insights on Susan Smith? I cannot be the only one with a page of questions about this character?)
Well, back to Ada. It is in the country that the tragic character of Ada starts to unravel into this deep, strong young girl that wishes to be free. Free from the impression of her repugnant mother and free from her own isolated world caused by her lack of mobility. In the country, Ada develops a love for horses and yearns to ride freely. A truly beautiful symbol of her own personal longing of freedom deep down in the soul of Ada.
The inevitable beginning of WWII eventually joins the setting of this story. We all knew it was coming, and we follow along with knowing eyes as Ada, Jamie, and Susan navigate their new lives together and the complications that have resulted with the start of the war. Many challenges and adventures are yet to come, and I encourage you to join Ada in her journey to self-discovery. I promise that you will not regret picking up this book!