Friday, April 5, 2013

Breathing Room

Evvy Hoffmeister is thirteen years old, her twin brother Abe is her best friend, she loves to help her father in the garden, and she has tuberculosis.

Evvy arrives at Loon Lake Sanatorium for treatment in the summer of 1940.  This treatment involves a lot of rest, cold air, and silence.  She isn't even allowed to sit up in bed or feed herself at first!  All this is in an effort to defeat the disease that is destroying lungs and stealing her breath. 

It takes some time to get to know the other girls in her room.  Pearl dreams of movie stars, Dena is stubborn and argumentative, and Beverly just tries to keep the peace.  Then Sarah arrives, and she and Evvy form an instant bond.  Each girl hopes to get better, but everyone know it is much more likely they will either graduate to the adult ward or die.  Even if you do get to leave the sanatorium, you're a bug for life with the possibility of of a relapse and contagion.

Some of the people at Loon Lake are cold and unsympathetic, but there are others who seem to care and want to provide comfort in the long and dull days.  How can you focus on recovery when the people you love are dying around you?

With images from the 1940's, and an informative author's note about tuberculosis at the end, Marsha Hayles's story is engaging and informative, but it is also heartbreaking and triumphant.  

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