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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lost Cause, written by John Wilson. Orca Publishers, 2012. $9.95 ages 10 and up

"The woman grinned broadly to reveal a row of yellowed teeth. She grabbed my hand. I thought I was off on another excursion to her past, but she did the same to Laia. Spouting a long string of Spanish, the old woman forced us to hold hands and shoved us down the corridor toward the daylight. As we emerged, blinking at the brightness, I asked Laia what the woman had said."

In this second book that I have read in Seven the Series, we meet Steve, twin brother of DJ. He, too, is one of David McLean's grandsons and is tasked by his grandfather's will to travel to Spain in search of a hidden past. It is a time of his life that his grandfather has never shared with family, and he wants Steve to make the return trip he never had the courage to make himself.

This story is driven by his grandfather's letter asking him to take up the quest and leads Steve to Barcelona and a young woman named Laia. Through her, he learns of his grandfather's time in the International Brigades in 1938, a journey he took to help the people of Spain as they fought the Fascists during the civil war. Laia has an old suitcase to share with him. It was given to her by her great-grandmother Maria. It contains a second letter from his grandfather:

"I can visualize every scrap of paper in that suitcase, and there have been countless hours over the past decades that I have sat and imagined going through it as you are about to do. That suitcase contains a piece of my life. A piece of life that no one except Maria knows about and that does not even exist in my mind, now that I am gone. Yet, if, at the end of my long and eventful life, I were offered the chance to relive any three months of my life, despite the pain, It would be my time in 1938 in Spain."

The suitcase also holds his grandfather's war journal and 'a collection of yellowed newspaper clippings, a crumpled, dirty red scarf, a brown dog-eared pamphlet entitled Spain in Arms 1937, a shapeless piece of black metal about the length of my thumb and a khaki beret with a red enamel star pinned to it.'

Reading the journal sets Steve, with Laia as his guide, on the same path that his grandfather took so long ago. The story is driven by the history housed in the journal.  As they move through the Spanish countryside, the remnants from the suitcase begin to make sense when juxtaposed with the writings of his grandfather. By the time that journey ends, Steve has real knowledge of war and its lasting effects, and the role it had in his grandfather's life.

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