Saturday, October 29, 2011

While We're Far Apart

Summary: In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

My Take : What I love about Lynn Austin is that she makes history come alive in her books. I haven't always been the biggest fan of books set in this era -- simply because there was so much devastation and heartbreak - so much evil that I have a hard time reading them. This book manages to deal with the issues from perspectives that most of the books I've read haven't before. It's deep, thoughtful, complex, and  - in many ways - beautiful.

My first love in books is characters and these are some of the richest and most complex you will meet. Unlike most books with two developed characters, this one has a depth that makes you think she wrote about real people instead of made created people feel real. 

Penny is the obvious first choice. She is like the center of a wheel. All the other characters connect through her in one way or another. I loved her transformation in the book. She learns so much about herself, her family, values ... what's the difference between real love and a crush. We see her grow into her own skin over the course of the book. 

Mr. Mendel has been through so much loss and is going through a crisis of faith. As he helps with the children and Penny, he has to evaluate what he does and does not believe in as he faces even more obstacles and set backs. 

Esther is Eddie's daughter and she starts off angry and resenting everything and everybody. All she wants is her dad and life back to normal. She lost her mom in a car accident and fear is controlling her. She obsessively clips newspaper pics of the war. She's also having to deal with all the things a normal girl her age does. She's interested in a boy but isn't comfortable in everything he wants her to do ...

Peter is so traumatized that he isn't speaking. He has to write down or make hand gestures to communicate with his sister or Penny. The boys at school tease and abuse him. He loves to listen to baseball games on the radio. Peter doesn't like the boy Penny is hanging around, even though he stops the other boys from picking on him.

Eddie's mom is a hoarder who hasn't left her home in years. She lives right next door to Penny's parents. They talk down to Penny and call her names. They also discourage her from being around strangers. They say she's special and needs to be extra careful. 

This book deals with everything from the importance of family, forgiveness, the issue of prejudice, coming of age, mourning ... It is a wonderfully rich book that deals with relationships of all kinds in a respectful way. I really enjoyed it. I think seeing into the lives of people living during this time makes history about more than facts, figures, and even the horrific images we've come to associate with this particular war.


Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

this sounds so good! the time period always intrigues me. thanks for the great review!

Margaret Metz said...

I'm glad you liked the review. I'd be eager to hear what you think - if you read the book.