Every now and then I enjoy reading something written for children or teenagers (or YA as that crowd is called in the publishing game). Robert Cormier's OTHER BELLS FOR US TO RING falls somewhere in between, for the 11 to 12 year-old group. My younger son, who is now approaching forty, has been a Cormier fan ever since reading THE CHOCOLATE WARS back in junior high. I figured it was hight time I tried reading something by Cormier and this book's WWII setting appealed to me. I found the story engaging, moving and full of hope. Its heroine, 11 year-old Darcy Webster, wrestles with problems of faith and friendship, often thorny subjects at that age. She's a non-churchgoing Unitarian, but her new best friend, Kathleen Mary O'Hara, is an Irish Catholic. They bond as 'outsiders' in a mostly "French Canuck" community in WWII era Massachusetts. Darcy's father, a recovering alcholic, enlists in the army and is sent overseas with the Corps of Engineers and is soon reported MIA. Kathleen Mary is part of a large family with a violently abusive father. When the family suddenly disappears from the Frenchtown neighborhood, Darcy is devastated. She wishes she knew how to pray, both for her father and her friend. What she doesn't realize is that her inchoate heartfelt prayers are perhaps the most precious kind of all. There are surprising twists here, both happy and sad, as Darcy makes that always painful transition from childhood to young adulthood.
I was reminded of another similar book for young people I read a few years ago, also set during WWII, but in southeast Michigan, called WILLOW RUN, by Patricia Reilly Giff. It would make a suitable companion piece to read with this one. Both books bring back the wartime experience from a child's point of view.
In short, OTHER BELLS FOR US TO RING is a beautiful little book about those three things we always heard so much about while growing up - faith, hope and love. My son picked a good one; Cormier is a wonderful writer. I will recommend this book highly. - Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir BOOKLOVER