CBR15 BINGO (On the Air square: Lots about radios and radio communication) BINGO! Dwelling to On The Air
This is going to be a terrible review. I liked this book too much and generally, when that happens I freeze when trying to review it. Doerr’s book won the Pulitzer nearly a decade ago. I’ve had this book recommended to me countless times and, as is often the case with books everyone raves about, I put it on my virtual TBR pile and forget about it. Why do I do this? It remains a mystery. To be honest, it would have continued to linger on that unread heap of treasures but when I googled “fiction about radio” to fill the square, it came up. CBR Bingo is the gift that keeps giving.
The story follows two children as they grow into young adulthood in Europe during World War Two. Werner, an orphan, lives with his younger sister in an orphanage in a German mining town. He’s an extremely bright and inquisitive boy who is always trying to figure out how things work. Unfortunately, his ability to fix and even build a radio from scavenged parts eventually catches the attention of the German authorities. Marie-Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her locksmith father. Raised among scientists and their specimens in the Museum of Natural History, where he father works, her natural curiosity blooms. Able to navigate her surroundings by studying a model of the city that her father painstakingly built for her, she is content to spend her days at the museum or falling into the adventures of Jules Verne. As Paris is occupied, however, she must flee with her father into the greater world whose landmarks are unknown to her.
To say any more about this book would be a disservice to the reader. So much is going on here and Werner and Marie Laure’s journeys are something I’d rather you just experience. It is a lovely story about family, loss, adaptability, and the horrors of war. In a historical conflict with a clear delineation between the bad (Nazis) and the good (everyone else), I appreciated Doerr’s exploration of the gray here and the conflict between indoctrination and experience. The heroes are found in the most unlikely of places. Voices on the radio with the power to cause devastation and death can also offer solace and spark the imagination.