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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Nineteen Hundred Days by Florence Osmund is, at its core, a coming-of-age story but with a more unusual storyline than most. Ben is twelve years old and his sister Lucy is just six when their father and mother fail to return home one day. The children, being homeschooled, have no real friends or contacts to get in touch with. With their father being a hopeless drunk and their mother never really home, having to work six days a week just to keep the family intact, Ben is at a loss of how to deal with this sudden situation. One thing that has been drilled into the young boy’s head over the years is a fear of authority (police) and CPS (Child Protective Services). Ben’s only solution to the problem is to load himself and Lucy into his father’s old Ford Bronco and drive the fifty or so miles to Ben’s only known relative, his father’s sister, Aunt Birdie. He convinces himself and Lucy that Aunt Birdie will know what to do and will protect the pair from CPS. So begins their adventure and the rapid growing up of a young boy on the cusp of his teenage years.
This story was compelling for a number of reasons. Florence Osmund has done an amazing job of building the scenarios that rushed through this young boy’s head and getting the reader to become invested in the two characters and, more importantly, in their survival. This story pulls at the heartstrings but it is very much character-driven as the author allows us into the center of the dilemmas faced by Ben as he seeks to be the “adult” in the situation. Nineteen Hundred Days is beautifully written and the story flows seamlessly as Ben seeks to find a balance between his needs, Lucy’s needs, his mother’s needs, and some of the moral dilemmas he is forced to confront on a regular basis. I particularly enjoyed the burgeoning relationship between the shy and unsure Ben and the more confident and vivacious Georgia. Equally fascinating were the dynamics between the people Ben encounters on his journey, such as the “ne’er do well” Melvin, with his big heart, and the almost brotherly relationship that develops between Ben and his best friend, guide and mentor, Will. This is an excellent read and one I can highly recommend.