BREATHING ROOM by Marsha Hayles


Age Range: 10 - 14
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Confined to a tuberculosis sanatorium in rural Minnesota, 13 year-old Evelyn Hoffmeister develops inner strength as she copes with loneliness, loss and the insidious disease that threatens her life.

In May 1940, Evvy’s father leaves her at Loon Lake Sanatorium, where she’s assigned to a ward with other teenage tuberculosis patients. Isolated from her family, Evvy quickly learns to follow Loon Lake’s strict regimen of bed rest, diet and treatment, with no talking or visitors. Frightened and overwhelmed, Evvy gradually adapts to the sterile routine and discovers her fellow patients: talkative, fashionable Pearl; kindhearted Beverly; gruff Dena; and shy Sarah, a Jewish girl who becomes her best friend. As time slowly passes, Evvy realizes some patients improve and leave, while others die, sometimes unexpectedly. Speaking first as an observer and later as an engaged participant and survivor, Evvy tells the story of her year at Loon Lake. By describing her feelings, fears and tentative hope, she offers an inside peek at the lives of tuberculosis patients in the pre–World War II era, when there was no real cure for the disease. Period photographs of equipment, posters, medical treatments and hospital facilities relating to tuberculosis add verisimilitude.

A quiet, sober story of a genuine heroine who survives a devastating disease with grace. (photographs; author’s note; notes on photographs) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 5th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8961-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012


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