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Mare's War Hardcover – June 9, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10–On a parent-mandated cross-country road trip with Mere, their unpredictable grandmother, 15-year-old Octavia and 17-year-old Tali make the transformation from complaining, self-absorbed teens to observant, supportive family members. Mere promises not to smoke if the sisters promise not to use earphones on their way to a family reunion. And then she begins to tell her life story. As the miles pass from California across the southern states, the girls become intrigued with memories of Mere's harsh childhood of domestic work and her struggle to protect herself and younger sister from their widowed mother's lecherous boyfriend. Mere's account of her war years is full of historical detail and lively personal anecdotes about the training, treatment, duties, and social life in her African-American regiment of the Women's Army Corps both on assignment in the U.S. and in the European Theater during 1944 and 1945. Octavia and Tali write postcards home to family and friends revealing their adolescent reactions to what they see and hear. Their bickering subsides as they begin to understand the experiences, people, and decisions that shaped their grandmother and the family bond they all share. Told in alternating chapters of Then and Now, this contemporary intergenerational story resounds with mutual exasperation, criticism, discovery, and humor. Octavia and Tali are believable and at times devious as they try to escape Mere's scrutiny. A steady travelogue, realistic banter, memorable characters, and moments of tension, insight, and understanding make this an appealing selection.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
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Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2009:
"Absolutely essential reading."

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375857141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375857140
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,791,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mare's War tells of two journeys. In a car speeding (or not, depending on the driver) across America to a mysterious reunion are two teenage girls (who had their own, more teenagerishly appropriate plans for the summer) and their grandmother, Marey Lee (known as Mare), who planned the trip. And on the way, their grandmother tells them the story of her first journey, seventy or so years before, when she escaped from her home in Bay Slough, Alabama and went to war.

The two sister, Octavia and Talitha, squabble, fret, drag their feet, and send occassional postcards of complaint to friends and family (shown in the book, in a nicely light touch), but as the miles pass. and their grandmother's story unfolds, the tone of the postcard messages begin to change. Their grandmother's life as Marey Lee, an African American teenager in the Women's Army Corps has them fascinated. The friendships she made, the prejudice she encountered, and the historical pagent of which she was a part are spellbinding stuff. This is an eye-openingly powerful narrative that educates without didactism, filling a blank space in the history of World War II without ever loosing sight of Marey Lee, the girl.

It was a story that sure kept me enthralled (although I'm glad I didn't have to drive 2,340 miles from California to Alabama in summer with my sisters and grandmother to hear it).

Davis manages to make her teenagers in the present interesting people in their own right, and not just vessels created to receive Mare's story, but their sibling relationship and 21st century teenage angsts pall in comparison to what their grandmother went through (to give them credit, they relize this).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tanita Davis's "Mare's War" is a good example of a book which can entertain as well as educate. It presents an interesting glimpse into a historical reality that most people are probably only vaguely familiar with - the service of African American Women's Army Corps members during World War II. But at the same time, the book is good fiction. The believable, engaging and dynamic characters hook us in while the plot offers enough suspense to pull us along.

The book alternates between "Now" sections in which Octavia and her petulant older sister are forced into an extended road trip with "Mare" , their grandmother, in order to go to some mysterious family reunion, and "Then" sections in which Mare reveals events of her childhood and how she ran away to serve in the Army without her mother's consent. Although annoyed with missing their summer, the girls get drawn into Mare's story despite themselves.

The "Then" sections are, in my opinion, the more vivid and engaging sections. Mare's narrative voice and dialect add life and humor to the story. Her sheer hard-headedness get her through her fear and enable her to do her duty with pride, even in the face of covert and overt racism. The "Now" sections primarily serve to frame Mare's story and wrap it up in a tidy package. As the story progresses, however, Octavia and Talitha develop and grow in a way that gives them importance in themselves.

There are some minor flaws with the book. I was somewhat bothered by the use of the present tense in Mare's story - after all, she is supposedly telling her granddaughters about events well in the past. I understand why Ms. Davis chose that route, however. Past-tense narration would not have the immediacy that's so engaging in Mare's story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Told from the alternating perspectives of 15 year-old Octavia (an African-American teenager from California) and Mare, her elderly grandmother who enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II at the age of 17, this novel tells a heartwarming tale of intergenerational bonding while also filling a gap in historical knowledge.

Mare narrates two chapters (all entitled “then”) for every one that Octavia narrates (all entitled “now”) as they drive from California to Alabama with Octavia’s older sister, Tali. Along the way, Mare tells her granddaughters the story of how she came to enlist in the army during WWII, trained in the south, and served overseas in England and France. Mare’s story, which comprises the bulk of the novel, addresses a number of serious issues—attempted child sexual abuse, family strife, poverty, racial discrimination and inequality, lesbianism—as it highlights the numerous “wars” that Mare fought while growing up and serving in the Army in the 1940s. Along the way, Octavia and Tali come to appreciate their grandmother’s struggles and learn more about American history, all the while developing stronger familial bonds of their own with each other and with their grandmother.

The complementary narratives depict deeply contrasting stories of growing up as a Black woman during two different periods in American history. Educational without being pedantic, this novel serves as an entertaining way for adolescents to learn about and appreciate an often neglected aspect of American history.
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