This is a novel that sent me on an emotional roller coaster ride. It is primarily the story of a girl named Grania who becomes deaf, at age five, after suffering through scarlet fever. Her mother refuses to accept Grania’s deafness but her grandmother (Mamo) is relentless in teaching her to read and speak. The description of Mamo’s patience and commitment is truly memorable and Grania’s progress is inspiring. She is nine years old when the family makes the difficult decision to send her to a special boarding school for the deaf. She must leave her small-town Canadian home and live in another city without her family. Although she is heartbroken at first, she eventually excels in the deaf school. The first 1/3 of the book tells the story of Grania growing up, meeting a man named Jim Lloyd, and getting married.
Their marriage takes place in 1915 and soon Jim is heading to Europe to be a soldier in WWI. The novel describes the horror of his existence as a stretcher-bearer on the front lines in France. Grania moves back with her family and lives through the difficult war years in her home -town, assisting the war movement and the family. Both Jim and Grania witness tragedy and death in their respective locations. Despite the separation, there is a deep devotion between them.
I won’t describe the novel anymore except to say it is very moving. My own grandfather, who died when I was very young, was a stretcher -bearer in WWl and I did not know or understand that he lived through such horror. It impressed me, and it distressed me.
This is a very fine story about commitment and devotion.
HarperCollins Publishers (2003)