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This unusual first novel is based on true accounts of the imprisonment of American citizens in Japanese detention camps in the Philippines during World War II. Louise Keller travels with her missionary family to the Philippines on the eve of Pearl Harbor. At first the country seems like paradise, but soon Louise and her family are captured by the Japanese and forced to live in internment camps. An exciting and thought-provoking novel about human strength and weakness in wartime....
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This unusual first novel is based on true accounts of the imprisonment of American citizens in Japanese detention camps in the Philippines during World War II. Louise Keller travels with her missionary family to the Philippines on the eve of Pearl Harbor. At first the country seems like paradise, but soon Louise and her family are captured by the Japanese and forced to live in internment camps. An exciting and thought-provoking novel about human strength and weakness in wartime.
Jane Hertenstein will donate a portion of her royalties for this book to help build houses for residents of Smokey Mountain, a large garbage dump in Manila where hundreds of people live under scraps of metal and cardboard.
Within months of arriving in the exotic Philippines from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, to live with her missionary parents on the island of Panay, fourteen-year-old Louise finds herself a prisoner of war in an internment camp when the Japanese invade her new country in 1941.
The sudden sound penetrated my deep, silent sleep. As if by reflex, my body shook and then relaxed into the pillows and clean white bedsheets.
"Daisy," said a woman's voice nearby, "please close the door quietly."
"Okay, Mama. Did she wake up yet?"
"Do you mean Louise, honey? Yes, she's awake, but she's still a little groggy from her sickness."
The muffled echo of bare feet pulled me further from my stupor. I opened my eyes to peer through a veil of mosquito netting; everything seemed pale and dreamlike. "Where am I?" I asked.
A woman's kind face bent over me and folded back the netting. "You're at the Baptist missionary compound. You arrived here a few days ago with your parents, but you were so sick with fever that you had to be carried from the ferry. You must be feeling better now, I see."
I nodded, remembering vaguely the ferryboat trip from Manila to the outer islands of the Philippines. My head had pounded as the weighted motors down below in the ferry snorted like an old man sleeping, blowing air outthrough his green rudder teeth. Salty seawater misted and sprayed the deck. I clung to the railing, looking out over the Visayan Sea, which was dotted with islands too numerous for names. My brain seemed to be made of cobwebs as I tried to remember what had happened.
I had come out from Ohio with my mother and father to the Philippines. Papa had taken a position to head up a missionary school on the island of Panay. I looked around the sunny bedroom where I now lay. Someone was missing. "Julie?" I called out.
"No, my name is Ann. Ann Fletcher-your new neighborat the compound." Ann spoke with a strong Southern accent. "Your mother is downstairs resting, and your father went with Frank, my husband, to the dock to retrieve your trunks."
I tried to lift myself out of the bed, but collapsed backward onto the pillows. The fever had left my body achy and my muscles sore. Nausea swept over me as if I were still on the ferry, rolling. I remembered the trip out to Manila on the steamship from San Francisco. At the docks in San Francisco I had waved good-bye to my sister, Julie. She was staying back for one more year to finish high school before joining us in the Philippines. The fog had been thick that October day as we pulled out of the bay. Straining my eyes, I looked into the crowd for one last glimpse of her face.
We had docked for a day in Hawaii, where I met some native fishermen beside a strange boat-a slim, narrow sailboat with a bar on the side to balance it. They had talked and laughed, and when they saw me, a man with almost-black skin reached inside the outrigger and pulled out a conch shell. Its pink pearly petals opened up to me like a flower. He motioned to me to hold it up to my ear, laughing at my surprise. I could hear the sea, swishing and roaring inside the shell.
Once again a wave of nausea came over me. I shook my head to erase the sounds, forcing myself to sit up in the bed.
"I must have fallen ill on the ferryboat trip from Manila," I said. "I remember watching at the railing as the water turned from a pretty crystal blue to a seasick green. Is it malaria? I read about malaria before coming out. More Yanks were killed from malaria during the Spanish-American War than from the actual fighting."
Ann fluffed up the pillows stacked behind my head. "No, I don't think it is malaria, just a bad stomach flu that put you out for a few days. You'll be up in no time."
Boom! The door banged shut a second time. A very small girl rushed into the room. Her curly hair made her look identical to the other little girl staring up at me beside my bed. With big-sister attention the older child said, "Looky, the girl woke up."
"Yes, sweet peas. Louise did wake up, but she needs her rest."The bigger child approached my bedside. "I'm Daisy. I'm five years old, and this is my little sister, Mae. She's two and a half. Mama says we are her sweet peas, and Mrs. Urs calls us little schnitzels. What's a schnitzel?"
I laughed. "I'm not sure, though I think you girls are very, very cute. I know we will be the greatest of friends.""Now shoo, little peas." Ann turned to me and took my hand. "I'm sure we'll also be the best of friends. I'll check in on you in a bit."
All three left the room with yet another bang. I was now fully awake and alert to the fact that I was in a new place. Nothing about this room reminded me of home. Sunshine flooded in through the open window shades. In the air was the smell of salt water and citrus fruits. The faint rustling of wings caught my attention. Tucked into a sunny corner of the bedroom was an orange-and-bright-green parakeet perched within a golden cage.
"Now," I said to myself, "I know I'm not in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Have I died and gone to heaven?"
I crawled out of bed and lifted the little bar on the cage. The bird jumped to my outstretched finger and tilted his head to the side. Immediately he let out a twitter. I sat back on my heels in the bed, amazed at how far I had come.
"How would you like to go to paradise?" Papa asked with a twinkle in his eye. Paradise. It all began last spring when Judson Smith, a missionary home on furlough, came to see Papa at the church. Papa pastored the First Baptist Church of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. A dull gray church with solemn rules against card playing and dancing and, in general, having fun.
Judson Smith shared the pulpit with Papa Easter Sunday, April 1941. I remembered the day as being oppressively beautiful. It seemed a sin to be stuck inside a church building in springtime, singing the words to an old hymn: "This is my Father's world, I The birds their carols raise, I The morning light, the lily white, I Declare their Maker's praise." I strained my eyes to look through the brightly sunlit stained-glass windows.
"Thank you, Reverend Keller, for allowing me to join you this day. I always enjoy visiting old friends." With his thin hair combed from the back of his head toward the front to cover a huge bald spot, Judson Smith looked olderthan Papa. Mr. Smith and Papa had gone to seminary _ together years ago.
"'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel."' said Rev. Smith. "Yea, even unto the ends of the earth. To mountaintops, to the valleys below, yes, even to the wildest jungles. Friends, let us not be fainthearted and shrink back, but let us persevere and endure. I exhort you to support our missionaries in the city of Iloilo on the island of Panay in the Philippines."
A cloud passed in front of the stained glass. The pane depicting the Crucifixion darkened, and Mary's face took on a deeper shade of concern. I looked over at Mother. She stared straight ahead, her back rigid against the pew. Mother's face was beautiful, but in a fragile sort of way. Her lips spread thin, motionless in the shifting light. Julie, my older sister by three years, sat on the other side of Mother. Julie reminded me of the cartoon illustration of Snow White with her black hair shaped around a perfectly sweet face. Her red lips were tied into a bow, smiling, laughing, singing. Baptists were not allowed to go to the movie house; nevertheless, I often heard Julie humming "Someday My Prince Will Come."
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel. I could not imagine Julie or Mother going to the ends of the earth; I could not even imagine them leaving Upper Sandusky. I, on the other hand, had flowing through my veins an urgency to run away, to fall off the face of the earth. But in all my fourteen years I had never been anywhere. I dreamed of dreaming in other languages, of waking up in other sunlight, of being someone else other than who I was, Jean Louise Keller.
After church that afternoon, around the dinner table Rev. Smith bored us with stories about the Philippines. 0 course, Julie and I were not allowed to leave the table while our guest lounged. We were obligated to sit and listen to him prattle on and on.
My bones ached and my mind wandered until I heard him talk about the Moro headhunters and how they cannibalized their victims. "Have you ever seen them?" I asked, interrupting his story.
"Well, I have met a few Moros in my day walking the trails, but they were civilized ones. Not the heathens who occupy the mountainous jungles. No," he said, "it takes much perseverance to teach these poor primitive people the ways of the gospel. . ." On and on he talked. I envisioned Rev. Judson Smith's bald head sticking out of the top of a big, boiling pot, the long strand of hair covering his bald patch floating in the cauldron, his mouth opening and closing, talking endlessly about the stupidity of the "primitive people."I laughed out loud. Everyone turned to look at me. Embarrassed, I said,
"Continue, Reverend Smith. Tell us more."
"Arlen, you and Kate should consider the mission field. There is a great need for men of your caliber over there. The Baptist Church is looking for qualified pastors such as yourself to help teach in the less remote areas. Some of the islands have no Protestant clergy. The Catholics have their own services, but, of course, not everyone is a Catholic. Have you ever given thought to foreign service?"
Posted June 5, 2000
Ms. Hartenstein writes gently, subtly, about a horrible experience: interrment in a WWII prison camp in the Phillipines. The main character's lovely poetry is sprinkled through the story, giving real contrast between the horror experienced in her life, vs. the sweetness of her inner world. A hard topic to handle for young readers, but Ms. Hartenstein does it expertly. I highly recommend it, and will look for more by this author!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.