CRUTCHES by Peter Hartling
Kirkus Star


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In a novel that parallels some of the author's refugee experiences immediately after WW II, 12-year-old Thomas is befriended by a German veteran who contrives to find life's necessities even though he has only one leg. Thomas was separated from his mother while they were en route to Vienna to escape the Russian invasion. Adrift, he follows ""Crutches"" to his home in a construction trailer. Crutches' reluctance to take Tom in is short-lived; he tries conscientiously to find Tom's mother, but--long before he succeeds a year later in the book's last pages--he and Tom establish a mutually supportive, strongly affectionate relationship that makes their ultimate parting hard indeed. They survive the early scavenging days, say good-bye to Crutches' dear friend Bronka (whom he saved during the war) when she emigrates to Palestine, and make a several weeks' train journey back to Germany, where they receive a cool welcome, since they are refugees, but are able to resume a more normal life. Full of authentic, lively incident and told with a realistic balance between the difficulties of daily life and the compassionate help people give one another, this is a strong addition to the growing list of fiction based on postwar experiences. Crawford's fine translation deals gracefully with even such impossibilities as representing a regional dialect.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1988
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard