What I really like: Paterson never takes the easy way out and it doesn't have a traditional 'happy ending.' There are things to be happy about in theWhat I really like: Paterson never takes the easy way out and it doesn't have a traditional 'happy ending.' There are things to be happy about in the end - Gilly has grown up and she learns to accept some emotional attachments. And she is smart.
I can see where some stuffy readers wouldn't like Gilly's behavior. She's a foul-mouthed brat at the beginning of the book. She's damaged; she's been passed around several foster homes and, after an early disappointment, tries to sabotage each placement that follows. She's a racist. Well, she definitely is at the beginning of the book. She learns to accept Mr. Randolph, but we never learn if she has had some sort of "conversion." Which is probably a good thing - life's a whole lot more complicated than a now-I-see-the-light story.
As I said, there isn't a traditional happy ending, but readers get the feeling that Gilly will be ok. And she seems to have learned a sense of grace - at least, in public. Her inner thoughts still mirror the girl we meet at the start of the story. But, she seems to learn how to control the impulse to act, having learned that acting in these ways doesn't always bring the desired consequences.
I'm not sure how I would have read this as a kid, but I'm happy I've read such a wonderfully complicated story. (Full Disclosure: Paterson's Bridge to Terebithia was the first book to ever leave me in tears.)...more
Twelve year old Hannah is sick of spending Passover 'remembering' the past with her relatives. During the Passover Seder, she is transported to 1942 PTwelve year old Hannah is sick of spending Passover 'remembering' the past with her relatives. During the Passover Seder, she is transported to 1942 Poland, where she becomes Chaya (her Hebrew name), the girl she was named for. In this time, she is eventually sent to a concentration camp, where the bulk of the story takes place. Throughout the book, she struggles with memory - which memories are real (the future or the now), remembering anything b/c of the trauma of the camp, futilely trying to use her future-memory to warn those around her, etc.
The story is chilling. And it is beautiful and sad. And it is an amazing combination of historical fiction and s/f.
Some of my favorite quotations:
"Passover isn't about eating, Hannah," her mother began at last, sighing and pushing her fingers through her silver-streaked hair. "You could have fooled me," Hannah muttered. (4)
But as the scissors snip-snapped through her hair and the razor shaved the rest, she realized with a sudden awful panic that she could no longer recall anything from the past. I cannot remember, she whispered to herself. I cannot remember. She's been shorn of memory as brutally as she'd been shorn of her hair, without permission, without reason...Gone, all gone, she thought again wildly, no longer even sure what was gone, what she was mourning. (94)
"We all have such stories. It is a brutal arithmetic. But I - I am alive. You are alive. As long as we breathe, we can see and hear. As long as we can remember, all those gone before are alive inside us." (113)
The days' routines were as before, the only change being the constant redness of the sky as trainloads of nameless zugangi were shipped along the rails of death. Still the camp seemed curiously lightened because of it, as if everyone knew that as long as others were processed, they would not be. A simple bit of mathematics, like subtraction, where on taken away at the top line becomes one added on to the bottom. The Devil's arithmetic." (146)...more