Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis sat on my bookshelf since I received it from the publisher a few weeks ago.  For some reason it never caught my eye, until I recently read Jen’s review.  I started reading the book while watching my puppy play in the grass and finished it the next day.  I can’t recommend it enough!  I am always on the lookout for WWII fiction and non-fiction for our Holocaust unit.  I especially keep my eye out for books that focus on parts of the war that aren’t always mentioned in the history books.  This past year some of my students read about the WASPs and ended up doing their National History Day project on Jackie Cochrane and the learned so much.  Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis is a new novel I can’t wait to add to my classroom library!

High school sophomore Octavia and her seventeen year-old sister, Tali, are being forced by their parents to go on a cross-country road trip with with their grandmother.  Now, maybe if their grandmother was a normal grandma this trip would be fun.  Instead, Mare (no using “Granny” here!), wears high heels, bright red lipstick, wigs, and drives like a bat out of hell.  But it’s during the course of the trip that the girls learn their grandmother was a member of the 6888th African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.  

While the long, meandering ride seems torturous at first, Octavia and Tali find themselves slowly drawn into the story their grandmother begins telling.  It turns out she’s lived a pretty amazing life- one that her granddaughters have never been aware of until this trip.  The story is told in alternating voices- Octavia “now” and Mare “then”.  Even though the narrator changes every few chapters, it rarely jarred me out of the story.  Octavia’s voice is so modern that there were never a doubt I was reading about the present.  Mare’s mid-century, Alabaman voice was pitch perfect for the “then” stories.  

This is different from many historical novels, which are usually a hard sell when it comes to my students.  The modern-day chapters add an interesting dimension to the book and I think that will be a turn-on for my students.  At the same time, Mare’s story is historical fiction at its best.  It’s the perfect mash-up for my readers.  

As Jen noted in her review, this is a novel that begs to be read aloud.  The voices are just so perfect that I could hear them in my head while I was reading.  Tanita Davis has done a great job and I can’t want to share this with my students.  

Personally, I loved this book because I love knowing “what happened” at all aspects of the story.  I want to really know the characters I am reading about and by telling the story through both Mare and Octavia’s voices I felt like I was truly getting the entire story.  I love that!

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