Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave

War breaks out on Alfie Summerfield's fifth birthday.  Before that day, his life was good.  He had two parents at home who loved him, a street full of friendly neighbors, and a best friend next door.  But the war changes everything.  Alfie's father volunteers for the army immediately hoping it will improve his chances.  Everyone is saying it will all be over by Christmas anyway.

Now it is four years later, and Alfie's father has stopped writing letters.  His mother says he is on a secret mission for the government, but Alfie only half believes her.  Most days Alfie doesn't go to school.  He works as a shoe shine boy at the train station to make extra money for the family.  It is while he is shining shoes one day that he accidentally discovers the truth about his father.

This discovery sets Alfie off on his own secret rescue mission.

You may recognize the author, John Boyne, from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  This new book is set during WWI and focuses post traumatic stress disorder, which was called shell shock in those days.  People understood even less about PTSD then than we do now, and many people accused these men of being cowards.  This book scratches the surface of the horror of "shell shock" and hope for eventual recovery.

I really liked this book and its subtle exploration of painful issues related to WWI and it's aftermath.  It will take a careful reader to really grasp the story and its implications.

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