Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Green Glass Sea, Ellen Klages

Dewey Kerrigan sits on the concrete front steps of Mrs. Kovack's house in St. Louis, waiting for her father. He is in Chicago- war work - and she has not seen him since the Fourth of July. It's almost Thanksgiving now. She looks toward the corner every few seconds.

The Green Glass Sea is an absolutely amazing middle grade novel. It is set in Los Alamos during World War II. The atom bomb is secretly developed, and it's known as "the gadget". Eleven year old Dewey Kerrigan lives with her father in this technically non-existent town. Dewey has her own mechanical projects, and locks horns and eventually becomes friends with Suze Gordon, an artistic kid who is a misfit as well. But none of them know how much "the gadget" will change their lives...

The Green Glass Sea is ultimately about grief and how to cope with it, but for much of the novel, it just talks about what life is like in Los Alamos. Everyone's parents work very late, sometimes not coming home for dinner, and everything is hush-hush. I can't really pin down what made this novel so great for me. Perhaps it was the writing, which is simple but compelling at the same time. Perhaps it was the amazing title, and the interesting historical setting. Or perhaps all of those things combined.

I liked the way that Suze and Dewey's growing friendship was portrayed. At first, Suze hates Dewey (who has to stay at her house for a while) and thinks she's weird, but really, Suze has to admit that she doesn't fit in, either. And they do have a lot in common. They end up having a great time together.

The Green Glass Sea is a page-turner, somehow, even though not that much happens in the book for the first hundred pages or so. It's intense, and combines fiction with history. And it's set in one of the historical periods that I'm most interested in.

But overall, The Green Glass Sea isn't really about the atom bomb or the making of it. It's not discussed that much, and the one person that dies in the book isn't killed by the bomb. As I said, it's hush-hush, so the kids don't really know much about it, other than that it will win the war. And the book ends before Hiroshima. The author says in some of the extra material that she "wanted to end it just before the world changed. The reader knows the world changes irrevocably on the next page, but the next page is not a part of my book...in discussing the book, it's also unrealistic to talk about the atomic bomb without talking about death. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than a quarter of a million people in August 1945, and death on that level is too large and too abstract to comprehend." And I think she's right. The scope of The Green Glass Sea is much smaller, much more individual. It's a book about relationships, in a strange place.

I would highly recommend this engaging work of historical fiction to everyone. I loved many elements of this novel.

318 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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