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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Black Dove, White Raven


Traveling through the last few days, Elizabeth Wein's latest novel Black Dove, White Raven lingered in the background of my thoughts. Emilia Menotti and her brother Teodros Dupre are "in the soup together" as Italian forces invade Ethiopia in 1935. Strapped into the same cockpit seat at age five, the children of flying partners Cordelia Dupre (Black Dove) and Rhoda Menotti (White Raven) have grown up together, despite the "Delia-sized hole" created when Teo's mother was killed in a bird strike. They instinctively reach for each other's hands when frightened, squeezing three times to communicate "Are you scared?" and feel the returned four squeezes, meaning "I am not scared."

The novel begins, however, with Em's declaration of acknowledgement that she is the only person who can help her and her brother. And so she writes to the emperor of Ethiopia, begging for forgiveness for Teo and a passport to help him leave the country. As evidence of his goodness and innocence, she sends the essays, stories, and flight plans the two have composed for their teacher and their mother. The book, then, is a chronological record of their experiences, joint and single, that go from their arrival from Bucks Country,Pennsylvania to the Beehive Hill Cooperative Coffee Farm in Tazma Meda. The people who love them in Ethiopia range from the clinic doctor and his wife to Teo's biological uncle to Habte Sadek, the priest at the nearby church who teaches them to throw spears and is guarding ancient treasures. Yet Teo and Em are eventually thrust into war, defense, and secrecy. They must work to make right a terrible debt owed while learning that "spiderwebs joined together can catch a lion". 

Gripping in the descriptions of events and in emotion, the story is told so well in the young people's voices that their fictional nature is in question in my mind. The author's notes separate the real events and people with those of her imagination. But once again, my interaction with a book enlightened my mind about a period in history I had not previously know. Read this book. 

2 comments:

  1. I immediately ordered this from the library! Looks marvelous. She is such an intelligent author.

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  2. I've started the book. It seems slow going at first, but I came back to find this post and I am now prepared to be pulled in deeper.

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