Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brave and Broken

This holiday weekend has afforded me the chance to get a jump start on my poetry reading.
I have finished both Home of the Brave and All the Broken Pieces.
They were both beautiful and very well written.
I want to talk about both first and then speak to each individually.
Both stories weave together the stories or people who on the surface seem very different but the more you look, the more similar their circumstances.
In both stories the narrators are young boys who have come to America to escape war- from Vietnam and Sudan.

Kek is the narrator of Home of the Brave. Most of his family was killed in the violence familiar to Sudan.
He is brought to live with his extended family in Minneapolis.
The author does a wonderful job of allowing the reader to see the world through the eyes of Kek, who is experiencing so much for the first time- snow, airplanes, escalators.
Kek befriends Hannah, a foster child who lives in his apartment building
and an older lady who is also in transition.
I don't want to give too much away.
I loved the poeticness (might have invented a word there but you know what I mean!).
The words paint a lovely picture even though the story is at times bleak.

The night Ganwar lost his hand
was the night I lost
my father and brother
the night of men in the sky with guns
the night the earth opened up like a black pit
and swallowed my old life whole.
Here is an interview with the author, Katherine Applegate.

I must confess that I started reading the second half of All the Broken Pieces this morning thinking that it wasn't as strong of a story as Home of the Brave.
Well, I cried through the last 20 pages and changed me mind!
I do think that Home of the Brave is more poetic but the story of Matt in All the Broken Pieces really got me.
Matt was airlifted out of Vietnam and adopted by a family.
The story takes place a couple years after the Vietnam war and tensions are still high.
The story follows Matt as he tries out for the baseball team and learns to play the piano.
I know that doesn't sound like much but he encounters people who are also broken and they are each able to help one another.
I think in some ways we are all broken and if we looked deep enough we would find similarities and be able to help each other.
The connection to the cover photograph of a torn baseball is beautiful in this story.

Both books have led me to further reading: The Things They Carried, July, July, and A Long Way Gone.

Happy Reading!

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