Friday, November 20, 2015

The War That Saved My Life: The Rest of The Story

I read a Goodreads review of my novel The War That Saved My Life the other day that absolutely moved me to tears. I looked for it today, and can't find it--I'm sure I could if I really searched, but I'd rather not. Just trust me that the review said something like this..."Ada is 86 now. She walks. She has been walking for a long time, ever since Susan got her foot fixed early in the war..." It goes on to predict what happens to Ada, Jamie, and Susan.

I loved it because, doing the math myself, I realized that Ada is 86 now. She's the same age as the gregarious old man I spoke to in the museum at Rye, whose face went white and still when my daughter told him I was writing a book about WW2 evacuees. "I was an evacuee," he said.

"For how long?" I asked.
"Six years," he said, and turned and walked away.

Ada is 86. She walks. She has been walking for a long time, ever since Susan got her foot fixed early in the war.

She does become a teacher. You can see the seeds of that in the sequel I'm writing. Remembering always what it felt like to know nothing, Ada is a remarkably patient and able teacher. She delights--absolutely delights--in being loved by her students, and, later, her husband and children.

Jamie, who becomes like a son to the Ellstons as well as Susan (you'll meet the Ellstons in the sequel), grows up to be a farmer. You can see seeds of that in the sequel, too. After the war Susan becomes a teacher at a small girls' boarding school. I know that Ada and Jamie give her grandchildren to delight in. When she dies she's buried not beside Becky, but beside the grave of another woman who became the companion of her later years. I know that Butter dies of advanced old age, and is buried on the Thorton's farm. I know that Ada continues to ride--that after she's a wife and mother she buys a small bay cob and keeps him in the field behind their home, rides in the local hunt, teaches her daughters to ride. I know that after the war the Thortons don't continue to live in their grand estate, so empty except for memories--but I don't know exactly what they do with it. Lord and Lady Thorton move to London, to a small elegant flat that's easier for Lady Thorton to manage. Maggie does not go to finishing school, nor university. She takes a secretarial job for awhile, simply to have something to do, and has a few escapades with Ada on the Continent, but marries rather young and enjoys being a traditional stay-at-home mother.

Stephen White dies in the very last days of the war. Ada's grief is terrible.

 Ruth--a new character in the sequel--keeps up a correspondence with Ada throughout and after the war, awkward at first but eventually, as the age gap between them lessens, a very real source of pleasure to them both.

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin wall, Ruth and Ada travel to Dresden. They visit the ruins of the bombed Cathedral, frozen in time from the war (its ruins lay untouched until it is rebuilt with the exact same stones) and the site of the old Dresden synagogue. They look in vain for Ruth's former home. Ruth dies before the cathedral and synagogue are rebuilt, but Ada goes there again to see them, with a daughter and grandchild.

There's one other new character I could include here, but I won't, because I don't want to take away from the impact of the new book's ending. And there's a character I'm not mentioning. When I spoke to a lovely group of fifth-graders on my book tour, who actually cheered and high-fived each other when they found I was writing a sequel, a boy came up to me after my talk. "What happens to Mam in the sequel?" he asked.

I said, "I am not telling you that."

"Well, you know," he replied, very earnestly, "an awful lot of bombs fell on London during the war."

Ada is 86. Widowed now, she will get up this morning alone in her small home. She will make herself a cup of tea, let the dogs out, put on a cardigan against the cold. She will stand at her kitchen window and look across the paddock, at the horses standing there, the very old cob who is the last horse of her heart, and the pony, a treasure, that she found for her grandchildren and Jamie's grandchildren to ride. I should phone Jamie, she thinks. It's his birthday Saturday week. We should have lunch together, just the two of us.

And they do.

9 comments:

  1. This morning I read Robie Harris's excellent "Goodbye, Mousie" at my mouse-themed Story Time at the independent bookstore where I work. As always, it made me cry. (It used to worry me that I occasionally cried during Story Time, until I realized that I could give the kids no finer gift than the knowledge that books are so powerful they can move an adult to tears.) This afternoon I learned of the death of a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and I cried again. And now I've just read this blog post; the tears are flowing for the third time.

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    1. It made me cry to it's so heart-warming!

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  2. What will you call your sequel?

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  3. We are eagerly awaiting this sequel!!! Do you know the release date yet?
    Students at Athens Intermediate School, Athens, Alabama

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  4. I just finished The War That Saved My Life and then I noticed that there was a sequel. I can't wait. I'm looking for it right now! What an awesome book. I have a hard time sticking with a book, but I couldn't put this one down. Thank you Kimberly Brubaker Bradley!

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  5. Hurray! My husband and I are travelling with our 2 daughters through South East Asia and Ada has been our constant companion on some of the long road trips. We finished it tonight and we all spontaneously clapped and cheered when Susan found Ada and Jamie in London. We took turns reading it and hammed up the English accents. ( we are Australian). Several times I was moved to tears. It was interesting talking to our kids about WW2 while we have been learning so much of the devastation of war on Cambodia and Vietnam. Thank you for your incredible book - Ada, Jamie and Susan will remain in our hearts for a long time.

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  6. Thank you for a wonderful story that brought two daughters and their mother (me) together. I can honestly say this is the FIRST book we have finished together without fizzling a couple chapters into it. And because of it, I have been inspired to create a mother/daughter bookclub with our friends. I bet you can't guess what the first book we read will be? We can hardly wait for the sequel. Thanks, again!

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  7. I love this book I've read it 5 times and I brought me tear each time I read it.

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