Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Other Half of Life

My weekend has been a bit frustrating to say the least. Here we are - ready for our first weekend after the start of school. This includes our town's annual festival beginning on Friday night, as well as plans to spend Friday evening relaxing with neighbors at a bonfire after gymnastics. We did manage to make it to these events, but on the way home from school after picking up three girls and heading out of town toward home, my van stopped working. When I called my husband he questioned exactly what "stopped working" meant and came to help me out. He soon realized that this meant my van no longer drives anywhere. We are anticipating having to put in a new transmission. We have also had our home computer (which was already past the point of needing to be replaced) die on Friday morning. And, if that isn't enough, our home phone also appears to be broken. We have done some work on our own and had our phone company come out. They contend the problem is in our house and therefore we will get to pay for it. Chris and are skeptical about the problem being ours, but tomorrow they will be coming to check things out again. ARGH! I wish I had time to have read a bunch of books this weekend, but there has been little free time. I did read The Other Half of Life: A Novel Based on the True Story of the MS St. Louis by Kim Ablon Whitney that I received from the Picnic Basket. This is a great historical fiction read about World War II. Thomas Werkman, the son of a Jewish father (his mother was not Jewish) is sent by his mother to what she believes is safety in Cuba where he will meet his half brother, Walter. His time on the boat seems so different from his life in Germany he has left behind where food is rationed and times are tough. The passengers on the boat are treated well, as the captain insists they should be. Thomas is befriended by a young woman, Priska, who is a year younger than he. Together the two manage to unlock some secrets on the boat and learn together that their entrance to Cuba may be blocked. They continue to find their attraction to each other growing, yet must ultimately say goodbye. This book about Jews being sent to Cuba is the second I have read on this topic in the last few months. The first Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle is written in verse, and while I enjoyed the fresh viewpoint, I will admit to enjoying Whitney's book a great deal more. Books that provide a new look at World War II are hard for me to put dow, and I appreciated The Other Half of Life for providing that. Whitney also allows us to see how Thomas and Priska's lives turn out ten years after they part from each other, and then seventy years later. This book will be a great addition to Holocaust units and an interesting read for anyone.

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