You may not remember, but in honor of my now-passed 1 year blog anniversary, I decided to re-review some books that I felt I didn't even come close to doing justice and they were a 'first' for me. In this case, Mare's War is the first review I ever emailed to an author. And I credit Tanita Davis 100% with indirectly (through her blogroll sidebar) introducing me to Color Online and company. She was even kind enough to comment on my review (but please don't read it, I'm so embarrassed by it, I can do much better). OK enough babbling, here's the review.
Mare's War by Tanita Davis 2009
IQ "Peaches thinks she can change folks' minds about what goes on here, but I know better. Folks always do believe what they want to believe about everything. You can tell them the truth, then tell 'em again, but they don't always want to hear." Mare pg. 186
Octavia is fifteen and Tali (Talitha) is seventeen and neither one of them wants to go a road trip with Mare (their grandmother. Mare is similar to the French word "Mere" which means mother) from California to Alabama. Mare is weird, she doesn't act the way a grandmother should (after all, they aren't even allowed to call her grandma!). She wears high heels and wigs. She drives fast and furious and she smokes. The girls are convinced Mare is crazy. They've never bothered to get to her, but this road trip will force them to learn about Mare's past and for Mare to learn about the girls current lives.
Yet another book that reminded me why people should re-read books. I loved getting reacquainted with Mare, although she was the same as I remembered. I would still love to have her as my grandmother (as long as I could have three) ;) I still don't understand how or why Octavia and Tali can not want to spend more time with their vivacious grandmother. I still wish that this book was set only during World War II and told from Mare's perspective. But on this re-read, I think I came to better appreciate the modern parts as well. I'm in the process of still learning how to drive (getting my license any day now) and I could more fully sympathizes with Octavia's fears of driving. I totally get it and it made the scene between her and Tali all the more heart-warming. This quote essentially sums up Octavia's personality and thought-process "'Live a little. I hate that phrase. People always say it when they want you to taste something gross or try something that might hurt. 'Live a little', is what people say when they want you to risk total and complete humiliation." (pg. 62). I do wish that we learned more about Tali and got to hear her side of things (besides what she wrote in postcards and said on the trip).
A strong message that runs throughout the novel has to do with truth. Not just telling the truth, but getting people to face it and accept it. "Sometimes folks don't wanna hear things,' she [Mare] says shortly. "You can talk till your blue in the face, but if you're not talking to the right person, it won't do you any good." (pg. 30). I thought that was a really interesting concept, because I think being in a war is the quickest way to make you face reality and accept things that you might not otherwise. For example, some white soldiers began to have more respect for Black soldiers after seeing them in action. Back home in racist America, they might not have ever reached that conclusion. I adored reading about Mare, Peaches, Ruby and even Gloria. The best part about this novel (aside from its setting) is that we get to learn about some of the women in the 688th Battalion, Company C in the U.S. Women's Army Corps. We see the more human side of the "mean girl", some people suspect one of the girls is a lesbian, but she never officially "come out" and that's cool. Each character has a story and they are given some time to tell it, through dialogue and Mare's observations.
Mare's War is a beguiling story chockful of history that doesn't feel forced. While I may not remember the characters of Octavia and Tali, Mare and her story are unforgettable. Mare went through so much, before and during the war (and afterwards too but we only learn the basics of Mare's life after the war). It's an absorbing tale about women who are often ignored in history. To be honest, it made me even prouder to be an American. Even though women could not fight in battle, reading about Mare's journey to Europe makes for some unusual reading. And what's not to love about some family bonding? As an added bonus, we see snatches of growth from Octavia and Tali as well. My hope would be that this book inspires everyone to look into their family history, to talk to their relatives and get their stories. It certainly inspired me.
Disclosure: Bought =)
PS Did you know that Octavia was named as a tribute to Octavia Butler? Well I totally didn't =/