Thursday, March 6, 2008
When I was a little girl I was fascinated with the story of Helen Keller. Since I am addicted to reading, the very thought of losing my sight is nightmarish. Losing both my sight and hearing? Unthinkable. While I was familiar with the story, there was a lot I had forgotten (basically all I could remember was that Helen was pretty wild before Anne Sullivan came to her and she learned to sign by realizing what water was).
Annie Sullivan walked into a house ruled by a tyrant. Because her family felt so guilty about her and were convinced that she could not behave differently, Helen was allowed to do whatever she wanted. Every time Annie tried to control Helen’s behavior, she was stopped by the parents. Eventually she resorted to moving Helen to a nearby house where she could have complete control over her and begin to instill some discipline and consistency in her life.
There are almost too many wonderful things about this book to discuss in one short review. Ms. Miller has taken a story that most people (at least most people my age) have heard and truly brought it to life. This was the first I’d read of Anne Sullivan’s early life and I hadn’t realized what horrible conditions she had endured as a child. It was the strength and tenacity that she gained from her childhood that helped her survive that first month with Helen, and it is these qualities that children of today can relate to.
I also enjoyed reading excerpts from letters she had written to a friend – it was almost as if Anne herself was validating the story Ms. Miller was telling. My only complaint? I wish they story had not ended where it did. Yes, the day Helen learns water is the logical ending, but I wanted to know what happened the next day, and the next. But don’t all authors want to leave us wanting more? There is a nice three-page summary of Anne and Helen’s life together, along with several photographs, a timeline, and an excellent bibliography. I’m sure Miss Spitfire will make the list of my favorite books read in 2008.