"Wisteria is the only thing me and Daddy ever argue about. I say the flower is purple and he says it's blue. I tell him I don't see how anyone can hate a flower that's so beautiful and smells so sweet. Daddy says he don't understand how anyone could love a vine that wraps itself around every limb on a tree like it wants to choke the life out of it."
Ann Fay Honeycutt becomes the man of the house the year of 1944, when her Daddy goes off to fight the war. Before he leaves, he gives her a pair of blue overalls and tells her "take care of your Mama, sisters and brother...you're the man of the house while I am away." Ann Fay takes the weight of the world on her little thirteen year old shoulders that year. She plants the garden, takes care of her sisters and little brother, and does most of the chores around the house.
"Daddy took my chin and made me look right at him. "I expect you to be the man of the house while I'm gone," he said. He handed me a pair of blue overalls. "You been wanting to wear britches ever since you first climbed that apple tree. I reckon this is your chance."
Ann Fay takes her responsibilities seriously, and does what is expected of her. The Polio epidemic hit that year, and when it strikes Ann Fay's family, her true strength and spirit are put to the test.
"I had no intention of crying, so I fussed at the wisteria instead. I yelled while I whacked. "You think you can take over the whole dad-gum world, don't you? Just like Hitler, swallowing up one country after another. Just like polio. Grabbing one baby and then going for the next one. You know what? I hate you!"
My thoughts on this book:
I read this book today...in one day. It is not a large book, 197 pages, but I had to finish it. I could not put it down. I fell in love with the characters, especially Ann Fay. I found myself crying for her, wishing that she hadn't had to grow up so fast, and go through all that she had to at her age. The author, Joyce Moyer Hostetter did a fantastic job with her research on polio and what those years were like for everyone who was touched by the disease that no one knew much about. Although the story was fiction, Ms. Hostetter used places, stories and some characters that were real. Hickory NC, where the story takes place was hit hard by the polio epidemic. The emergency hospital in Hickory was a real place, as mentioned in the story, as well as the story of "Polio Pete", the little black terrier dog that was adopted by the emergency hospital staff. It was said that he belonged to a polio victim that was in the hospital and wanted to stay by his owner's side.
This is book that I will without question rate 5 stars. It was an enjoyable yet sometimes sad read that I will never forget. It also touched me in another way - I have a cousin who had polio as a child. There is so much that I didn't know about the disease. After reading this story, I know so much more and now know what he had to endure getting well.
Publisher: Calkins Creek Books 2006