Saturday, June 22, 2019

38. The Long Way Home by Margot Benary-Isbert

Another random find from the library sale.  Really an odd book.  I can't tell if it is because it was translated from German or if this is the way it was intended.  It is oddly straightforward, almost simplistically told.  There is also no tension or conflict.  It is just the story of a young boy, Christoph, who sneaks out of East Germany in the '50s and makes his way to America where he starts a new life.  As a baby, an arriving American G.I., Larry, found him while searching a cabin and snuck him food which helped him survive.  That same G.I. ended up becoming friends with his adopted mother, the schoolteacher who had been hiding him and he promises to make him his adopted son when the boy is old enough to leave.

This is basically what happens.  we learn about the families he meets going through Germany, the other children on the boat to America, his time with a family in Chicago and eventually his new life on a farm in Central California.  He is an appreciative and open-minded boy and the reader gets to share his perspective on his journey and the world around him.  He misses his home and is surprised by the wealth and culture in America, but also loves the freedom and the independent, hard-working spirit of the people.  I don't know, I lapped it up.  It was just a really nice, positive story with pleasant descriptions of taking care of the goats and learning to ride and making new friends and his relationship with the other members of his new family.  There is an exciting forest fire at the end, but it is all told in such a direct, pleasant way that you kind of know nothing seriously bad is going to happen.

I once picked up a Polish hitchhiker on Vancouver Island and he was drinking goat milk and was quite enthusiastic about how good goat milk was for you.  If there was one lesson in this book, it was that goat milk is really good for you.  Christoph's main goal is to get some goats in his life, like he tended as a boy in Germany.  Anytime anybody has some health issues, they are healed by steady drinking of goat's milk.  I think I'm going to give it a try.

Hmmm, doing a bit of research, I have learned the Benary-Isbert's books were fairly succesful in their time and were primarily read by younger audiences.  She has several other books, including two about a family struggling in post-War Germany (The Ark and Rowan Farm) whose characters have small parts in The Long Way Home.  They sound similarily comforting and absorbing, so she will have to be added to the list!

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