Monday, November 19, 2012

Breathing Room - Marsha Hayles

Title: Breathing Room
Author: Marsha Hayles
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: November 15, 2012
Finished: November 18, 2012

From the inside cover:

Evvy Hoffmeister is thirteen years old when she arrives at Loon Lake Sanatorium to be treated for tuberculosis (or TB). Evvy is frightened by her new surroundings; the rules to abide are severe and she misses her family. But Evvy soon falls into step with the other girls in her ward. There's Sarah, both quiet and thoughtful; Pearl, who adores Hollywood glamour; and Dena, whose harsh words conceal a deep strength. Together the girls brave the difficult daily routines and forge an indelible friendship.

Set in 1940, a time of political unrest throughout the U.S. and Europe, this masterful novel-both eloquent and moving-gives voice to the brave young people who fought hard to win the battle against TB.

This book intrigued me purely because it takes place in a sanatorium. I always see sanatoriums in old movies where a sick parent or relative is gone recovering from 'consumption', but never quite knew anything more about them. Breathing Room not only acts as a history lesson in this respect, it also tells a compelling story about persevering against a sickness where recovery wasn't guaranteed (and could take years) and varied from person to person.

Evelyn (Evvy) is taken to Loon Lake Sanatorium in Minnesota in 1940 to not only be treated for TB but also isolate her and other sick patients to prevent the spread of the contagious disease. The book illustrates how harsh the medical profession was at that time in regards to the emotional well-being of patients, especially children; Evvy and the other girls are not allowed to talk, get out of bed, or even read books until they are cleared to do so by their doctor. The setting of the sanatorium really reinforces the cold and sterile setting these girls had as their normal day to day experience, and being completely separated from their families to avoid spreading the disease and speed healing (nowadays no one would dream of keeping a sick child from their parents while they're in treatment).

The range of characters gives readers an idea about exactly how varied the experience with tuberculosis could be. Some girls get released to go home, some have operations to try to improve their condition, some seemingly get better only to fall desperately ill, and some ultimately die. The girls are all shaped by their shared experience and bond as a result of it. The writing is understated yet effective, it all makes for a very nice read.

Interesting subject matter, well-written, and appealing this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the various shades of blue, it almost makes it look like a sky scene.

1 comment: