Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tamar by Mal Peet

Tamar is the name of two of the main characters in this book. One is a fifteen year old girl who is telling the story in modern times. The other is a man in the Dutch resistance during World War II; Tamar is his code name. The Dutch resistance fighter's part of the story is told in third person, while Tamar in modern times is the voice of her own story. She believes that she was named for her grandfather, the resistance fighter, who asked his son if he would call her that before she was born. But who is the man she calls Grandad? She feels closer to him than anybody else, until the day he commits suicide. He leaves her a box of his items, but they are only clues, a puzzle to try to figure out who he was. The puzzle leads her along the river Tamar, which is where the code name for the resistance fighter came from, and hence her name. What she discovers is surprising, although the resolution of the identity of her grandfather is not, as reading the book leads you to the conclusion before Tamar learns about it herself.
Although the ending is less of a surprise than I had thought it might be, the book is still suspenseful and moving. The scenes from the Dutch resistance during WWII have you turning pages as fast as possible, while following Tamar up the river that she is named for slows things down a bit. The reader is brought along with Tamar, wondering right with her what the point of this journey up the river actually is. By the time she reaches the end, we know what the answer to the riddle is, but the form it takes is unexpected. The story puts one teen's struggle for her identity along with a story from her family's past, and the historical detail provided is fascinating. This is a very well-written, enjoyable book, both for teens and adults.

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