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!

5 Responses

  1. I’m so glad that you liked it, too, Sarah! I agree completely about the voices. I hope that your students like it, too.

  2. Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical prinicples. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

    We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany – most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

    I wrote “Jacob’s Courage” to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

    Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, “Jacob’s Courage”

  3. Thank you for this post. Mare’s War will be a great addition to my classroom library. I can’t wait to read it. (The narration of the story reminds me of Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech.)

  4. I loved Mare’s War as well and if i were still teaching 6th grade I can see some of my students’ faces who would be devouring that book! On the Holocause, have you read A LUCKY CHILD? I found it quite thought provoking and would have appreciated sharing it with my 6th graders as well; I wrote about it here:

  5. […] Bookseller | Jen Robinson’s Book Page review | Reading Rants! | Charlotte’s Library | The Reading Zone | everything distils into reading | A Patchwork of Books […]

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