Congratulations to Donna Earnhardt who won last week's giveaway and will receive Gretchen Griffith's picture book, "When Christmas Feels Like Home." Don't be discouraged if you didn't win. Next week Deanna Klingel will share her winning query letter along with a chance to win "Cracks In the Ice."
Today, I want to share my thoughts on the 2008 National Book Award winner What I Saw and How I Lied; a book which could easily be subtitled, "Things aren't always as they seem."
I was attracted to this audio book since my work-in-progress Half-Truths deals with the theme of family secrets. Set in 1947, author Judy Blundell, tells the story of 15-year-old Evie Spooner, who uncovers a series of lies which her beloved mother and step-father tell.
Her step-father, Joe Spooner, is a World War II veteran who marries Evie's attractive mother, Bev. In a moment worthy of being mentioned in the pages of LIFE magazine, Bev is rescued from a life of being leered at by men in order to give Evie a "normal" father like every other girl has.
But what Evie doesn't realize, is that Joe brings baggage -- in the form of money from goods that were stolen from the Nazis who stole it from the Jews-- to the marriage.
When 23-year-old Peter Coleridge follows the family to a vacation in Florida, Evie falls head over heels in love with him. Joe reluctantly admits that Pete served with him in the war and Evie doesn't understand Joe's resentment to Peter. Caught up in her own "first love" Evie doesn't see how her mother also sneaks away to see Peter.
Blundell creates two believable stories: the "top story" of a young girl's infatuation, what she does to gain her crush's attention, and how she innocently sees the world; and then the "underside" story of events which leave her parents accused of an heinous crime. Evie comes of age as she recognizes that events can be portrayed, explained, and even legitimized -- all depending on your point of view.
Blundell did an excellent job of depicting life immediately following World War II and the aftermath which both veterans and their families faced. In the author's note at the end of the book, Blundell explains how she immersed herself in the music and literature of the time period. Her diligence to details shows.
Since I am also writing a post-World War II book that deals with lies and deception, this book challenges me to authentically portray my characters' struggles.
I disagree with the publisher's suggestion that this is a book for 9-12 year olds. I think the hint at sexual activity, violence, and the complicated family allegiances make this more appropriate as a young adult book.
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