Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Search for Self Amid War and Changed Places

Marjorie had one last thought. "How will we change back?" she asked.

"I'll work that out," said Shona, giving Marjorie a push. "After the war -- in Holyrood Park."

Searching For Shona, by Margaret J. Anderson
1989, 159 pp

A lonely rich girl and a confident poor orphan switch identities at the train station in Edinburgh during the evacuation of children during World War II. Shona, the poor girl, hands well-to-do Marjorie her flimsy cardboard suitcase, which Marjorie later discovers holds a key to Shona's past. Uncovering that past will be part of Marjorie's life for years, when she is in fact discovering herself in another poor little rich girl's house from long ago.

Searching for Shona is filled with memorable characters, mystery, and the drama of war. It is the story of an 11-year-old girl who learns self-reliance and builds her life from the ground up -- discovering an inner source of strength that she had never known existed. She discovers that not only can she take care of herself, she can take care of other people too. When the war is over, she is a changed person, but she is completely herself.

I first read this wonderful short novel about 30 years ago. I was probably about 11 years old -- the perfect age, I think, for this story. While it is a short read with language that is not difficult, it remains one of the most compelling stories I have ever read. I began to re-read this book to my 11-year-old daughter this past week. When she fell asleep, I continued on. I simply couldn't put it down and wait for our next reading session. I'll just have to re-read it yet again, which I look forward to.

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