He opened his eyes to find himself in a large room, although how large, he couldn’t tell, darkness swallowing up the corners. It was dimly lit by a lone, bare bulb overhead, swinging just a little in a breeze he couldn’t feel. And underneath the bald glare was set after set of eyes, like gas lamps, gleaming in the shadows beyond the bulbs light. The eyes–there were so many–didn’t see to be reflecting the light from overheard, but instead seemed to wink back at him with a glow that was entirely their own.
The Hollow Chest by Brita Sandstrom is a hauntingly beautiful debut portrays the grief and sorrow of war so expertly I found myself wondering if Brita Sandstrom had experienced WWII. Raw, authentic and powerfully honest, this story follows the journey of a 12-year old boy desperate to help his brother who has come home from the war broken and changed. Filled with symbols, metaphors, and real life emotion, this book is sure to evoke discussion and thoughts long after the book is closed.
About the Book
Debut author Brita Sandstrom arrives with a sweeping, unforgettable historical ghost story of the darkness around and inside us, and the courage it takes to keep hope alive.
Charlie has been having nightmares. Eyes watching him in the night, claws on his chest, holding him down. His dreams have been haunted for years, ever since German bombs rained down on London, taking his father’s life, taking his city’s spirit, taking his beloved brother, Theo, off to war in France.
Now Charlie is left to take care of his grandpa Fitz while his mother works, waiting for the day when Theo will come home. And with World War II nearly won, that day is almost here. Grandpa Fitz warns Charlie that soldiers sometimes come back missing a piece of themselves, but Charlie isn’t worried. Whatever Theo has lost, Charlie will help him find it.
When Theo finally does return, though, he is cold and distant. But Charlie refuses to accept that the brother he knew is gone, and soon, he discovers the reason for his brother’s change: war wolves. These are terrifying ancient beasts who consume the hearts of those broken by grief.
The wolves have followed soldiers back home from the front. And if Charlie truly wants to save Theo, he’s going to have to find them and get his brother’s heart back. But can a heart that’s been eaten ever be replaced?
Brita Sandstrom is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults. Hollow Chest is her first book. She lives with her family and a collection of cats in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can visit her online at www.britasandstrom.com
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