Saturday, January 21, 2017

Character Spotlight: Ada Smith from The War That Saved My Life

Character:  Ada Smith
Book: The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada Smith is a young girl living in London right before WWII begins.  She spends her days trapped in her apartment because she was born with a "twisted" foot and her mother says she's too simple to go out.  Ada's mother is ashamed of her and angry with her.  She's not too much nicer to Ada's brother, Jamie, but he is allowed out of the apartment.

Right away we see the longing that Ada has to be with others.  We understand that she is smart.  She watches people from the window, notably the neighborhood kids and then later her brother when he's old enough to go out on his own.  Her deep caring and love her brother are seen in the ways she makes sure he gets some extra of her food--even with their mother leaves barely enough for one of them.  When Jamie won't listen to her, she tries doing what her mother has done to her, essentially: she ties him to his bed so he can't get away.  Well it doesn't take her long to understand what this means and that by doing this she has become her mother.  Very quickly she apologizes and sets him loose and explains she wanted to make sure he was safe.

Ada is so strong!  Mentally, physically, and some might say emotionally.  Since her mother has kept her locked up in their flat, Ada has never learned to walk.  Putting any weight on her foot is painful and so she has been crawling or dragging herself around the house, but never walking.  She has no crutches.  Yet she still manages to take care of Jamie.  And then she teaches herself to walk--on her twisted foot, without shoes.  It's painful and she ends up bleeding every time, but she's determined and she learns.

When Jamie tells Ada that all the school children are to report to school the next day and they will be taken to the country, safe from bombs, Ada is ecstatic!  Of course their mother scoffs at both of them and tells them it won't happen because no one wants them.  Ada makes sure it happens.  She plans for it and gets them to the country with the rest of the children.

Now all this is just what she does in the first chapters of the book.  Even though she's never been to school and hasn't learned to read (her mother said she wouldn't be able to learn) Ada is so smart!  She understands people and she knows how to get things done.  She teaches herself to ride, then finds people who will help her learn more.  She learns how to be a friend.  She begins to understand what family means and who she can be.

I really loved Ada.  Throughout the story, Ada's defenses come down and her anger and terror begin to come out.  When she starts to feel safe, she allows that part of herself to open up and it's heartbreaking, but also satisfying to see her railing against what she's finally discovering.  Her mother never loved them and she lied to Ada her entire life.  She's discovering who she can be when allowed to flourish and grow.

Check out my Review of The War That Saved My Life to find out more about this book and other characters.

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