Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis:
Meet Mare, a World War II veteran and a grandmother like no other. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less than perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. Now she is driving her granddaughters—two willful teenagers in their own rite—on a cross-country road trip. The girls are initially skeptical of Mare's flippy wigs and stilettos, but they soon find themselves entranced by the story she has to tell, and readers will be too.
Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces readers to a larger-than-life character and a fascinating chapter in African American history.
Summary from GoodReads.
Octavia (Tavia) and her older sister Talitha (Tali) have had their summer hijacked by their parents. Instead of wiling away those hot summer days babysitting and ogling hot lifeguards, they are stuck in a car, driving across the country with their grandmother, Mare, to go to a family reunion.
Mare’s not like other grandmothers. Despite being in her 80s, she favors high heels, outrageous wigs and drives her little red sports car like a maniac.
Trapped in the confines of a small car, Tavia and Talia are a captive audience to Mare’s stories of growing up poor and joining the African-American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) when she was just 17 years old. Though reluctant to listen at first, soon they are asking questions and learning about a part of history really covered in class. Through crazy pit stops, poor road conditions and hot weather, the girls slowly come to understand why Mare is the way she is, and learn what it means to embrace a life lived in spite of the fear of the unknown.
I picked up Mare’s War because I read a moving blog post by Tanita Davis in the wake of the horror in Oslo. This woman’s a writer, I thought to myself, and quick review of her website proved my theory to be true. Mare’s War was available at the library, so I picked it up.
Not only did I end falling in love with Mare (she can be my grandmother any day), but I got to learn something without ever feeling like someone was trying to teach me a lesson. Mare’s War may be narrated by Tavia in the present, but – as the title suggests – this is Mare’s story.
And what a story it is.
Mare’s journey to protect her little sister, and become something beyond being the house girl for the local society maven is captivating. Davis captures her journey during this time period and the politics of WWII (not to mention the irony of fighting freedom for others when you are not complete free yourself) without ever feeling heavy-handed, and the resulting story is a captivating read.
Mare’s personality and journey are so strong however, that her story overshadows that of her Tavia and Tali and their relationship with one another. The periods of time spend in the present while Tavia tries to understand her strained bond with Tali and learn her own strength of character does not have the same impact of the chapters that take place in the past. Mare is just too big of a character. While I enjoyed the present day interludes (and Tavia and Tali’s personalities), I was glued to the couch by what would happen in Mare’s life next.
Mare’s War is highly recommended for readers who are interested in a fictional account of historical events, flamboyant characters, strong women and anyone who enjoys a road trip story.
You can purchase Mare's War from these fine retailers: Powell’s, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.
Book Source: the library.