Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman

Imani is preparing for her bat mitzvah alongside her friends.  Imani knows what she wants for the big gift her parents have promised her - to meet her birth parents - but she doesn't know how to tell her mom and dad about her wish.  While she works on a way to ask without hurting them too much, she spends time with her best friend reading her great-grandmother's diary.  Imani's great-grandmother Anna wrote about her life in 1941 when her Jewish family bought her passage to the United States to escape Nazis in her home country of Luxembourg. Anna's large family, including her twin sister, planned to join her as soon as they had the money to escape but they never did.  Imani is drawn into Anna's story and finds it reflecting her own desire to find out about her roots while also reinforcing her love for her adoptive family.

This is a good story throughout but my favorite part happened close to the end with the discovery of an unexpected family member and the connections made there.  Prior to that, I was engaged with the story but not bowled over by it.  At times I found myself removed from the book, looking in at the story as I read Anna's entries about adjusting to life in the U.S. and wondering why she wasn't sending all this information in a letter back home instead of writing it in the diary.  It felt too plot device-y.  I also had issues with Imani's mother's reactions to her attempts to find out more about her birth family.  It is explained in the end but the length of uncomfortable feelings dragged on too long.  I've seen this in other books with adopted kids and am always frustrated with the parents who had to know their kids would eventually ask these questions and should be prepared to answer them.  Aside from those couple of issues, I like the revelations about Anna's life and her family and I enjoyed Imani's friends who were quite drama-free.

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