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Homeland is told entirely through letters.  Susanna, a Southerner, and Cora, an islander from Maine, meet briefly in Tennessee before the start of the Civil War.  They strike up a correspondence that spans the duration of the war.

It took me a 20 pages or so to get into the book and get some characters sorted out.  But once I got going, I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s one of those books that just keeps getting better and better as you go on, and then the ending is so perfect, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Through Susanna and Cora’s letters, Hambly dives into some huge issues: the effects of the war on women; the competing loyalties that people felt as they were torn between love of homeland, their state, the Union, family and their family’s land and livelihood; the choices, or lack of choices, that women had to support themselves and their families; the power of books to teach and comfort; the power of writing to bring clarification and healing during times of pain; the power of friendship to sustain through the darkest times.

A fictional book, based on the real-life Iqbal Mashih.  As a child, Iqbal was forced into slavery in a carpet factory.  He escaped and dedicated the rest of his life as a free child to helping other children escape.  This is a short, powerful book.   Although it’s supposed to be for children ages 8-12, I would use caution when reading it with younger children.  It gives a very accurate portrayal of modern day slavery, and deals with issues that could be very frightening for children.  With some care, it would be an excellent addition to a discussion of freedom, courage and slavery.

Eva and her professor father move from Chicago to Communist Poland to help support the underground movement there.  When Eva first arrives, she is horrified by the living conditions and can’t wait to get home.  But gradually, she gets to know the Polish students who are fighting for freedom, and decides to stay and fight.

47 by Walter Mosley

23rd January 2006

47This book is one of the strangest books that I have ever read. It’s an unexpected combination of historical fiction with fantasy. The first four chapters tell the story of young slave number 47, who has lived on a cotton plantation for his entire life. But then he meets Tall John and his whole world changes. John introduces the concepts of equality and freedom to 47, and begins to open up a whole new world for him. Then things get strange. There are visions, space crafts, aliens, healing potions, invisibility lights, time travel, near death experiences. . . You name it and this book has it. I love the theme of true freedom that is woven through the book, but the whole fantasy aspect of the book is just too confusing.