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The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer

25/60 | Started 05.15.23 • Finished 05.22.23 | 4 stars

Historical fiction doesn't usually float my boat - I'm not a big fan of storylines that jump back and forth through time, and it's a genre that tends that way - but this WWII novel was engrossing. The two main characters are 1940s Alina and present day Alice, her granddaughter. Having survived the war, Alina is now on her death bed. Alice struggles through her day-to-day life as a mother of both an autism spectrum son and a gifted daughter.

It’s a beautiful and unfortunately rare thing to have someone understand my situation instead of judging it.

The story begins in pre-war Poland, where Alina's family runs a small farm. Always criticized as being soft, lazy, and delicate, Alina is often sheltered from work and from real life. Her one passion in life is Tomasz, but he leaves for college early in the book. The German invasion happens quickly, and life for Alina and her family changes drastically. Due to the introduction of Alina's granddaughter Alice, it's clear that Alina survives the war, but under what circumstances?

To destabilize a group of people is not at all difficult, not if you are willing to be cruel enough. You simply knock out the foundations, and a natural consequence is that the rest begins to tumble.

The present day story finds Alice in Florida, overwhelmed with life and still feeling disappointment from her extremely successful mother. Her grandmother has had a stroke that is affecting her language center, but she is clearly trying to communicate something urgent to Alice. Through a special connection with Alice's autistic son Eddie, Alina is able to begin relaying her requests. Everything points to her upbringing in Poland but her family just can't make sense of it. Alice is faced with a choice that could disrupt her entire life.

I told myself that even deafening silence was preferable to noise if the noise always ended in grief.

A captivating story about love, family, and resilience, Rimmer's novel was quite a read. She did a great job weaving together the past and present into one cohesive narrative. I appreciated her treatment of the highs and lows of parenting an autism spectrum child, as well as the effects it can have on an entire family. She also wrote with some profoundness about suffering and grief. Recommend for all lovers of historical fiction, and even for those who aren't sure about the genre!

Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin

24/60 | Started 04.05.23 • Finished 05.19.23 | 4 stars

As our final family read-aloud this year, we chose this book about "the race to build - and steal - the world's most dangerous weapon." Such an interesting read! We learned so much about espionage, politics, history, and even basic physics. Sheinkin did a great job keeping the suspense going from chapter to chapter, especially when it came to the espionage. However, it is definitely not for children as there are a few swear words and some intense descriptions in the chapter about the bomb's effects on the ground in Hiroshima. I was fooled a little by the Newbery Honor in that regard. This is more for young adults. Thankfully, my younger one wasn't tuned in enough to this one to notice the difficult parts. Would recommend for teens and up!

Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

23/60 | Started 04.24.23 • Finished 05.18.23 | 5 stars

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I've never read this classic series. I probably never wanted to read it as a child because it had a girl on the cover (insert eye roll here). But now was the time to introduce it into Carolyn's curriculum and for that I am grateful. What a lovely start! We so enjoyed reading about Mary, Laura, and the whole family as they made a life for themselves on the prairie. Carolyn especially enjoyed the chapter about the dance. Looking forward to reading more as time goes on - maybe even this summer!

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