When young Jack is overcome with anxiety on an airplane, Audra is concerned. When night terrors interrupt her son’s sleep, she is worried. But when Audra sees the disturbing and violent pictures Jack has drawn at school, she realizes she has a big problem.
Jack might be acting this way because of his father’s sudden death two years earlier. Their lives have been full of changes, including a possible new job in Philadelphia for Audra, far from their home in Portland, Oregon. But there’s no logical explanation for Jack’s night terrors and his sleep connection to World War II, German spies and crashing airplanes.
This is part of the story that unfolds in The Pieces We Keep; a very clever and entertaining story that is, by my own definition, a combination of modern and historical fiction, with a supernatural piece that tries to answer questions of life, death and spirituality.
The other part is a love story that begins in London, at the outset of World War II. Vivian and Isaak are drawn to each other, but Isaak has a secret. When the war breaks out, Vivian must return to America. Isaak plans to join her, but first he must make sure his German family is safe.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, which alternates between modern-day Portland and the years surrounding World War II, in London and New York. It’s a plot-driven story, full of suspense and cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter, teasers that make you want to keep reading. Questions about truth and the meaning of names and phrases also keep the story moving. McMorris definitely has a knack for story-telling and her use of details that resurface with greater meaning is one of the best things about The Pieces We Keep.
I liked certain characters, especially Gene. He’s the kind of guy you cheer for in books, full of goodness. I think his reaction to betrayal is the best part of the story, especially the scene with Vivian in the apartment. (I’m purposely being vague here for to keep out the spoilers!). Other characters, such as Vivian and Audra, are not as reachable, but I think this works because it is a story about events and ideas, not so much character development.
McMorris’s characters try to understand why death can be tragic and random. They struggle to find the connections between the past and the present, ties that will promise closure and a good feeling about the present. There’s a feeling of all her characters reaching the same positive conclusion, which makes for a nice ending.
I prefer endings that aren’t too perfect, and there’s enough left up in the air here to satisfy me. McMorris leaves the reader to interpret Jack’s dreams, their source and their full meaning, a mystery to the end.
This is a fun and engaging read, with some open questions about present and past!
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