Thursday, April 11, 2013

Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles

Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles is the story of a young girl who is sent to a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1940.

When 13-year-old Evvy is sent to the Loon Lake Sanatorium, in hopes that she will recover from her tuberculosis there, she does not know what to expect. Many of the staff members treat the patients brusquely, or even harshly, and there are many rules that limit patients' activity, as rest is the top priority for sanatorium residents. As she acclimates to life at the sanatorium, Evvy starts to make friends with the other girls in her room. All of them long to be cured and return home -- but for tuberculosis sufferers in 1940, a return to health is certainly not guaranteed.

This is historical fiction of the classroom sort -- interesting and enjoyable enough, but probably not something that kids will eagerly pick up on their own. Hayles does a good job of integrating her research into the story without it seeming too overt, and an author's note at the end will answer further questions about tuberculosis sanatoria for the curious reader. Books featuring dying children walk a fine line between being emotionally evocative and emotionally manipulative. While I wouldn't classify this book as manipulative, I think the writing is a little constrained and sanitized, limiting the emotional impact of the story. It's a fairly good book, but not a great one.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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