Katie's Reviews > Mare's War

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis
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's review
Mar 03, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2012

Octavia and Tali may not realize it yet, but Mare didn't used to be anybody's grandmother.

Spending the summer on a cross-country road trip in Mare's little red sports car should have made for the most boring summer of their lives. But both girls are in for a few surprises. Before this trip is over, Octavia and Tali are going to get a whole new perspective on their grandma, their own family, and their country.

Holy smokes, I could not have chosen a better book to kick off my BHM reading challenge!

I've always wanted to read Mare's War because I L.O.V.E. that cover. The original cover (below) is just fine, and reflects a little bit more of the story, but the paperback cover... wow. That is one gorgeous, powerful image! For more information on the cover, check out this post and this post from thatcovergirl.

Author Tanita S. Davis used one of my favorite techniques to tell the story of Mare's War: duel narrators. Octavia, the younger granddaughter, narrates the chapters titled "Now," giving us the scoop as their road trip progresses, and reacting to Mare's narrative, titled "Then." Octavia and her older sister Tali's commentary certainly wasn't the real meat of the story, but their present-day relationship created an interesting parallel alongside Mare's remembrances of her own relationship with her little sister Feen. The presence of the two girls also helped to flesh out the image of Mare as a grandmother:
"Mare mutters something under her breath and turns toward Tali. Tilting down her enormous sunglasses, she stares down at my sister.'Talitha, you're not going to be a pain in my behind this whole trip, are you?'"

Love that woman. Mare's chapters were by far my favorite. Beginning her narrative at home in Bay Slough, Alabama, and then moving on to her time in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), Mare proves over and over again that she is simultaneously soft-hearted and tough as nails.

Although her story is deeply personal, it is also an eye-opening look at a rarely told piece of our country's history: the role that African Americans, particularly women, played during World War II. At one point Octavia voices a sentiment that I believe many readers would share:
"'So, Mare. Weren't there any other African Americans overseas?' ...'Sure there were - but they were male soldiers. Something like one point two million African Americans fought during World War II. They sent a lot of us overseas. I'd say almost fifty thousand.' ...I can't believe my teachers never mentioned this....'But it's history,' I insist. 'Shouldn't people tell you about history?''It's there if you know where to look, but the colored WACs are also part of segregation history,' Mare reminds me. 'Talking about segregation isn't as nice and neat as talking about being the 'greatest generation' that won the war. For some folks, it's just stirring up bad memories.'"
The ending is somewhat surprising, and deeply satisfying. My biggest disappointment concerning Mare's War is not reading it earlier, because I would have prized the opportunity to read this skillfully written novel with my students.

Read Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis! Especially if you...
- appreciate historical fiction
- value a new perspective
- are a teacher looking for a class novel that will enliven and enrich class discussions

Suggested Book Pairing:
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. This nonfiction text is phenomenal, and Ms. Colvin gets a shout-out in Mare's story!

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