by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial, 2015. 316 pgs. Fiction.
Ten-year-old Ada is never allowed outside because she has a club foot which shames her mother. She has always been responsible for her healthy little brother Jamie, who can now leave her whenever he wants, and about whom she ceaselessly worries. Her mother is one of the most abusive women in the history of children's literature, surely, and so Ada and Jamie are not altogether sorry when they are shipped out of London and into the countryside during the Blitz of World War II. They are sent to live with one Susan Smith who didn't plan on displaced children, nor want any. She is still grieving for the loss of her partner Becky, dead from pneumonia. By and by, in a story very similar to Michelle Magorian's Goodnight, Mr. Tom, Ada learns to ride Becky's pony Butter, makes friends with the neighbors, and comes to believe a bit more in her ability to live a life of her choosing, though she continues to push Susan away, fearful of becoming too attached and then losing her new home. When Ada and Jamie's mother shows up, demanding their return, all seems lost - but is not. The War that Saved my Life has some hard to believe elements such as that Ada would be as able and as kind as she is given her circumstances (she has never been out of her house to see grass before, nor learned to read, nor been in the company of anyone other than her terrible mother and her beloved but inattentive brother). Also, the ending, though happy, seems overly fortuitous. Still, The War that Saved my Life is a good, readable, and heartening story of two young children rescued by a woman who loves them in spite of her own inadequacies and their insecurities and pain.