Ten-year-old Ada Smith, born with a clubfoot, was treated badly by her mother. When World War II starts, Ada’s younger brother, Jamie, is sent from London to be kept safe. Ada runs away from her horrid mother by following her brother. After being taken in by a lady in the country, Ada and her brother are introduced to a new life. Will they ever learn to live this new life while the war wages around them? Will this life offered to them last? Or will they quickly fall back into the hands of their abusive mother? All this and more is in Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s bestselling story, The War that Saved My Life.
A War that Saved My Life is moving from beginning to end. Packed full of realistic characters and vivid scenes, this book certainly deserves all the praise it has received. Ada, especially, is one of the most realistic characters in a book that I have ever read. My heart breaks and bleeds for her at times. Her despair is so deep, yet instead of wallowing in it, she rises above it. She is a beautifully courageous hero! Yet, when it comes to characters, I think Susan Smith was the best. What a woman! How she deals with Ada and her deep, scarring wounds is amazing! But, she is not a “let us make Ada feel good” character. She is harsh with the children much of the time, yet is so compassionate, caring, and nurturing when it is needed. IF there was only one good thing about this book, it would be the characters. Specifically Ada and Susan.
However, Ada and Susan are not the only good things about this book. The writing nostalgically echoes the classic series of Little House on the Praire books. It is not peppered with big words and fancy metaphors. It tells the story in a simple, yet lovely way. Bradley tells the story truly from the eyes of a ten-year-old cripple and it is heart-wrenching. The utter CONTEMPT I felt for Ada’s mother grew and grew with every single time Ada ducked in fear of being hit. Possible spoiler alert There is one part in the book where, without Susan’s permission, Ada uses her sewing machine and accidentally breaks the needle. Trembling with fear, Ada runs and hides deep beneath her bed. She stays there for hours. When Susan eventually finds her, she is quivering in panic and fear of being hit or disowned. The fact that her mom so emotionally scarred Ada made me cry. It was pathetic and who else to thank for that vivid sympathy than the author!
One observation I made that I would like to touch on is the fact that this story wasn’t much about WWII. Though you knew it was there, the war never started to affect the characters until close to the end of the book. Though I am sure this was intentional and all part of the story, I would have liked to have seen more of how the war affected them, especially Ada. I would like to have seen in more depth how Ada reacted to the war.
Overall, the book was great! A one time read, in my opinion, but still very good! I would say the reading level is about 8-12, but there were a few curse words. So, I wouldn’t recommend it for such a young age, but to each his/her own.
Thanks for reading my review. God bless!