Saturday, December 26, 2020

Remember Me

  Remember Me
Author:  Mario Escobar
Publication Information:  Thomas Nelson. 2020. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0785236589 / 978-0785236580

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My hands shook with the letter I had just received, postmarked from Mexico."

Favorite Quote:  "I was thinking about friendship, about the indestructible ties of love between two people, who until a certain time had been complete strangers, but, who, somehow, on the solitary path of life, found another soul with whom to share the journey."

I love this book for the history to which it introduces me. "Remember Me is the collective story of the Children of Morelia. Some 460 children between the ages of four and seventeen were sent from Spain to Mexico in an attempt to escape the terrible ravages of the war ... The adventures of Marco, Isabel, and Ana Alcalde are of course a tribute to the Children of Morelia, but they are ultimately a tribute to all the children of the Spanish Civil War who were sent to safety in exile in the Soviet Union, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina, and Chile. They had to leave behind what they loved most - their parents - and, in many cases, they were exiled forever."

I love this book because remembering this history is timely as the news is filled with stories of the hardships refugees and immigrants - including children - face today. As the author states, "My hope is that Remember Me pays homage to the exiles of all wars - to those who have lost their homelands to the brutality of human violence."

The story of this book is the story of the Alcalde family. Francisco and Amparo Alcalde are supporters of the Spanish republic, termed communists by those on the other side of the conflict. Francisco works as a printer, and Amparo is an actress. They have three children - Marco, Isabel, and Ana. As war comes to Madrid, Francisco and Amparo make the decision to send their children to what they believe will be safety in Mexico. Things, however, are very rarely what they seem. The challenges that the children face in Mexico and their quest to reunite with their parents is the heart of this book.

The narrator is Marco in 1975, about 40 years since his experiences in the war. His view is that as an adult looking back. The story is the memory, and as such, incorporates some of the insight gained as an adult, and correspondingly, some of the distance that comes with time.

The atrocities described in this book are horrifying and heartbreaking. However, that distance seems to carry into the telling of the story. At the end of the book, I feel like I know much more about the history through both the book itself and through the nonfiction research I do to better understand it. However, even by the end of the book, I don't feel like I know the characters. Francisco and Amparo are loving parents and loyal to their cause. Marco is the older brother charged with being the caretaker. Isabel and Ana are the young girls set adrift by was but holding on to each other and to their brother. 

The horrors these children go through are unimaginable. Loss of home. Loss of family. Loss of country. Orphanage. Abuse. Abduction. Near starvation. Violence. Death. Fear. And even more. Throughout, they find moments of joy and friendship and help. At the end of the book, I remember the experiences more than the characters of the impact on them.

Perhaps, that is the point - to remind us of a history that should not be forgotten. The point of fiction is also to tell create memorable characters. This book excels at one of the two goals

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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