The Whispering Road by Livi Michael
I'm not even sure where this book came from...does that happen to anyone else? I am one of those people that hoards books, but as a rule, I typically buy books based upon their cleverly written synopses or their visually appealing cover art. I'm guessing I just liked the title of this one.
This ended up being a really great, unique read. It's set in 19th century England, and follows a young boy, Joe, and his kid sister, Annie, who escape from a workhouse in search of their mother. Several years before, their mother had given them over to the workhouse out of desperation, having just been widowed and unable to provide for them. She had intended to come back for them as soon as she got back on her feet, but after years of suffering abuse at the hands of their masters, the kids bolted in hopes of reuniting with her on their own. The book follows their journey, which is riddled with danger and disappointment. Annie has strange supernatural abilities that strike either fear or awe into the strangers they meet along the way, and Joe grows weary of her bizarre behavior, which hinders them greatly along the way. When the opportunity to abandon her presents itself, he takes it, joining a child gang in a large city. His new life is a treacherous one, and he must literally fight for survival on a daily basis. When circumstances leave him all alone again, he begins to regret leaving Annie behind, and determines to find her again.
I loved that this entire novel was written from a child's perspective. How different a story it would've been if written any other way! So many times throughout the book, I found myself questioning what was real, what was the imagination of a kid, and what was pure superstition or fabrication. And it was brilliant. In general, the story was heart-wrenching, and the human condition described among the poorest of England's citizens left little to the imagination. The atrocities committed against the children in the book are unthinkable, yet true to life. Aside from the superstitious aspects of the story, I almost believed I was reading a diary. There were even great philosophical talking points woven throughout speaking to a plethora of moral and political issues.
I loved it. I think you would, too!