So I realize this is a bit of cheating, but I am going to do it anyway.
Since I have not been able to update in the past couple days due to moving and work, I am going to post all the updates I meant to post today! Fortunately, I did keep some notes, so not everything is entirely based on my perpetually flighty memory.
Here we go.
“Summer of My Germany Soldier,” by Bette Green is a story of a gawky, Jewish girl living in Arkansas in during the 1940’s. Besides gawky, she is also an avid reader of dictionaries, compulsive liar, and the proverbial cat that curiosity killed.
Unfortunately for her, her mother and father take little interest in her. When they do it’s either to belittle her for lack of beauty and interest in clothing, or to tell her to shut up and beat her until she can’t walk.
The description of the story is “a young girl’s search for the strength to survive in a bitterly unhappy family…”
When I first started reading this story, I was a little anxious to continue. It’s not the kind of story that immediately grabs your attention because it’s voiced by a 13-year-old girl who is as percocious as she is unreliable. It’s also undeniably miserable.
Her world is caught up with women and men who long for possessions, where statuses of wealth are simultaneously swept up in war patriotism and scarcity mindsets.
Everyone is bitterly unhappy.
At one point Patty’s grandmother says to her daughter,”The difference between you and your brother is that they always liked whatever they were given, but you, Pearl, never liked anything once it was yours.”
As the story progresses, her town becomes home to German POWs. When one escapes, she decides to give him shelter, food and clothing.
What is poetically beautiful about that, is she gives him a shirt she had given to her father for father’s day. She recounts her gift giving as something that gave her the “painful pinch of shame;” he never wore it, but pushed both her and the shirt aside.
Patty Bergen is a lost child and there are some people who offer her safe travel, like her family’s maid Ruth, but they can’t ever bring her all the way home. Ruth, her saving grace, as much she loves Patty, is unable to protect her from her family and town; from growing up outcast. She does love her though, and that is quite a great thing.
Patty realizes, “… it came to me that maybe that’s the only thing life rafts are supposed to do. Taking the shipwrecked, not exactly to the land, but only in view of land. The final mile being theirs alone to swim.”
Overall, this book is a strong hug and gentle reminder for some of us outcast folks, to not give our heart and souls trying to please people that can’t be pleased. As Ruth says, “When I goes shoppin’ and I sees the label stamped, ‘Irregular’ or ‘Seconds,’ then I knows I won’t have to pay so much for it. But you’ve got yourself some irregular seconds folks, and you’ve been paying more’n top dollar for them. So jest don’t go a-wishing for what ain’t nevah gonna be.”