The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer
- New hardcover, just released last week – April 7, 2015
- Ann Packer has written several other novels, probably best known so far for The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, published in 2002. Also, it takes place in Wisconsin, so I might have to give it a read. Side bar – you know not everyone lives on a farm, and eats cheese all day, right? When I lived in the south for a few years, people would always ask me “where’s your cheese?” I mean, do YOU walk around with a stockpile of cheese all the time? I mean, I LIKE cheese quite a bit, but honestly, who doesn’t?
Our story begins in the 1950s, with Bill, just back from the war and well on his way to becoming a pediatrician. One day, he goes for a drive and comes across this sprawling and majestic piece of land, just outside of the San Francisco area. He is overcome with images of his future family and home, and impulsively purchases the land for later use. The novel continues with his marriage to Penny, and through the lives of their four children as kids up through adulthood.
So I’m going to put this out there right away. Anytime a book is described as a “family saga” taking place “over several generations,” I IMMEDIATELY want to read it. It’s one of those triggers for me, as I tend to really like those kinds of stories.
The story is told in long-ish chapters, from various perspectives – from Bill, the father, the four siblings when they are young, and from each once they are adults. I found each sibling – Robert, Rebecca, Ryan, and James – compelling in their own way, and feel like I could read a whole book about every one of them individually. Robert, always trying to prove his worth; Rebecca, a bad-ass lady, but also thoughtful and kind; Ryan, creative and sensitive; and lastly, James, the family scapegoat.
The story jumped around in time between chapters, and even within chapters, but was extremely easy to follow. Tiny little events and small gestures – misplacing a watch, for example – take on immense meaning and significance. These moments are revisited in several chapters throughout the story from different perspectives in such an engaging and clever way.
I will say, this story reads very quickly, and I found myself finishing it in no time at all. I’m writing this review about a week after completing it, and many of the details have already gone a little fuzzy around the edges, but the overall feeling of the book remains with me – and that is one of contentment. There is nothing crazy, earth-shattering, or overly shocking about this story – it’s simple, not always pretty, but real, and I truly enjoyed reading it.
Rating: [4/5 stars]
I haven’t really seen any other reviews of this, so if you’ve written one, let me know so I can go check it out! Have I convinced you to give this go? Any other family sagas I should know about?