Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles
Evvy Hoffmeister is thirteen years old when her family brings her to Loon Lake Sanatorium to get cured of tuberculosis (TB). Evvy is frightened by her new surroundings; the rules to abide are harsh and the nurses equally rigid. But Evvy soon falls into step with the other girls in her ward. There’s Sarah, quiet but thoughtful; Pearl, who adores Hollywood glamour; and Dina, whose harshness conceals a deep strength. Together, the girls brave the difficult daily routines. Set in 1940 at a time of political unrest throughout the U.S. and Europe, this thought-provoking novel sheds light on a much-feared worldwide illness. Hundreds of thousands of people died each year of TB, and many ill children were sent away to sanatoriums to hopefully recover.
Although Breathing Room is a few years too young for me, I was intrigued by the story of a young TB patient. Although the book doesn't really get into the grittiest details of the disease, it remains realistic and sobering. The book is full of historical documents and photos detailing life during the TB epidemic. It also touches on World War II. I enjoyed Evvy's steady narration of daily life in the sanatorium, her quiet determination, and the friends she made there. Middle-school kids interested in history would love Breathing Room.
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