A boy coming of age in a time of war…
the love that inspires him to survive.
For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.
Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.
When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.
I was initially hesitant to read this book because I realized the protagonist was a child (hence no romance) and I thought it would be reminiscent of the film with a young Christian Bale, Empire of the Sun. A good movie, but not one you want to watch over and over again. But, I was reminded of something: a) I love history, even the ugly parts and b) the moment I fell in love with reading. I will never forget the first time I got lost in a book, and the author who had written that book was Sigmund Brouwer. It was the Accidental Detectives series, specifically, The Mystery Tribe of Camp Blackeagle. I read and reread that series well until my teen years. And so I thought, if there’s any author who can make me fall in love with children, it’s Sigmund Brouwer. And he did.
What I liked:
Jeremiah Prins. I loved this kid from the very first page with him on it. He’s only ten, but he’s the brightest ten year old I’ve ever come across. And he was bright in a time when you needed all of your wits around you. He’s funny, charming, thoughtful, and I wish I could have known the man.
The history. I knew very little about the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies during WWII and I learned a lot with this book. My respect and my heart went out to them.
The characters. Though Jeremiah stole my heart, I found myself invested in each child (and adult) that came across his path (well, almost each child).
The writing (or the story). I stayed up well past my bedtime trying to see what would happen next. I found the book to be completely captivating.
Spiritually, this novel shows people with great faith in those camps and people who often doubted. I thought it was portrayed realistically and I learned a thing or two about what it means to really have faith.
What I didn’t like:
Sometimes Jeremiah gave some long explanations as to why things were the way they were, and so I skimmed so I could find out what actually happened next.
The Ending. Let me just clarify and say that nothing in the camp bothered me for the simple reason that I was ready mentally for anything (and I say this because some things are revealed when Jeremiah is an old man). No, what bothered me, happened after the camps. I hope this isn’t spoilery, but it might be just a bit. But for me the ending was like Mockingjay at the end of the Hunger Games series, or the last couple chapters of Ender’s Game. I guess it’s a happy ending, but mannnnnnn, I wanted so much more for the people I had fallen in love with.
Romantic Scale: N/A because their children, and yet there still manages to be a romance, and a very sweet one at that.
Overall, I’m very glad I read this book. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve discussed it with my military father, and had there been a movie I would have watched it. If you love historical novels, you will love this book.
“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”
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