I'll Be The Riverbank And You Be The River

Human beings are the best hope in the world of other human beings to survive.

No, this is not a review of last month's book club selection, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind, that was promised for yesterday. And yes, this is the review I promised last week but didn't deliver. You should know by now I'm nothing if not unreliable. What can I say except that it's taken me this long to recover from the shock of Tracy finally succumbing to an escape read. Next up: audio books! Why quit while we're ahead?

While I can't say whether Tray will take to the sound of books in her ear, it's a safe wager she'll take to Anna and the Swallow Man. I know I did. This beautifully written young adult book (that every adult should read) centers around seven-year-old Anna, suddenly alone in a city torn apart by war, and a tall, thin, enigmatic man she calls the Swallow Man. She follows him as a river follows the riverbank, across Poland and parts of Russia, as they try to stay alive and out of war's way. While the Swallow Man teaches her how to survive in a time of war, Anna reminds him that survival, in and of itself, is not enough to support life.

I can't stop thinking about Anna and her Swallow Man, or her beloved Reb Hirschl, a Jew they meet along the way and against their better judgement, but to their betterment, befriend. This book will stay with you long after the last line. There is something uniquely unsettling about witnessing war through the eyes of a child: it's raw, unfettered, and devastating in it's simplicity. But at the same time hopeful, leaving us all better for the reading. Like Liesel and Marie-Laure before her, Anna helps us see the world through younger, yet wiser, eyes—as children so often do. In the words of her father: "Men who try to understand the world without the help of children are like men who try to bake bread without the help of yeast."

Posted by Rachel