Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 4.5 Stars
An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.
It's been many months since I last read a middle grade novel, but when I heard about Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War The Saved My Life, I just had a certain feeling that it would be a very special read, one I couldn't miss. What we take for granted as something normal and everyday is actually a hard-earned struggle for Ada. She has spent her entire life confined in her family's one-room apartment, forced to crawl because of an untreated clubfoot, and entirely dependent on a mother who emotionally and physically abuses her everyday.
When Ada's younger brother Jamie is evacuated out of London to escape the onset of WWII and the threat of bombs being dropped on the city, she sneaks away with him onto the train carrying all the children away. Ada and Jamie find themselves in a rural, coastal village in Kent, living in the home of a woman named Susan Smith, who is reluctant to take in the dirty and hungry children. But for all her grumbles, Susan gives Jamie and Ada the kind of care and security they've never experienced before, certainly never by their own mother.
Ada begins to thrive in Susan's home; she is soon spending her days teaching herself how to ride Susan's pony and learning to read, settling into the kind of life she never could have imagined. Her clubfoot may limit her mobility, but Ada is highly independent and determined to discover more about the world her mother has always forbidden her to explore. Jamie, however, wants to return to the familiar sight of home, not understanding in his childish, innocent mind that it would mean sentencing Ada back to her prison.
Susan does what she can to help the children, but Ada is wary to trust other people, especially since the one person who should have given her unconditional love has only shown her pain and humiliation. Ada has been neglected all her short life, and told she'll never be wanted by anyone, so she doesn't believe she deserves kindness or anything nice. I found myself tearing up at times for all the abuse Ada had suffered because of her cruel mother, and the lasting impact it continued to have on her when happiness was right in her grasp.
I'm so very glad I read Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life. Ada's story of perseverence is heartwarming and absolutely inspiring. I was so proud to see Ada grow and flourish under the care of Susan and the small community of friends she gains in the village. She's a survivor and doesn't give up, even when the odds seem against her. All the while, WWII rages on and the threat of Germain invasion looms over the country. The War That Saved My Life tackles difficult subject matter, from the stigma associated with a disability to the complex relationships we share with family, in a way that resonates with readers of all ages.
Thanks so much to Penguin Canada for providing this review copy!