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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Nervous Mary is a historical fiction novel by Laura Atwood Duran based on the experiences of the author's mother-in-law during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. In the year 1936, sixteen-year-old Maria Munoz-Morales' life turns upside down when Spain erupts into a civil war, plunging her family into harrowing circumstances. In response to a Nationalist military uprising, the Republican government begins arresting and executing sympathizers and supporters of the Nationalist and Falangist factions, leading to Maria's father's imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Republican militia. The oldest of her three siblings, Maria has no choice but to take responsibility for her younger brothers and a sick mother. Plagued with anxiety and nightmares, Maria puts up a brave front as she and her brothers risk starvation and death while the Nationalists inch closer to Madrid.
A heartbreaking look at a family facing the brunt of a civil war, Nervous Mary is a well-researched and thoughtful study of the devastating impact of war on innocents. Author Laura Atwood Duran draws inspiration from her mother-in-law's experiences in the Spanish Civil War and weaves a captivating tale showcasing the resilient spirit of human beings amidst loss and tragedy. The narrative is unflinchingly raw and doesn't portray either side as heroic or evil. Instead, Duran focuses on the human side of things as war causes havoc, regardless of one's political leanings or religious preferences. The characters are well-fleshed-out and feel genuinely authentic. You can't help but care for Maria and her family's fate. Anyone who prefers historical fiction and coming-of-age tales will find Nervous Mary a rewarding reading experience.