Anna and the Swallow Man
By Gavriel Savit
New York: Alfred Knopf, 2016.
YA—grades 8 and Up 232 pages.
This book is brilliantly written by a new author Gavriel Savit. This is the story of Anna who lived in Krakow, Poland in 1939. She was just seven years old when her father, a college professor, was rounded up by the Germans. This group of intellectuals was either imprisoned or sent to their death but all Anna knows is that her father does not come back to pick her up. She was left with a friend who ran a pharmacy, who does not want and leaves her outside. In comes a man that befriends Anna—or at least she thinks he does. So she follows him out of town and that is where he revels his magic to her—he a master at many languages including birds. He can call birds, swallows, at will—this seems magical to Anna.
Anna, sensing she has no one in the world begins to attach herself to this stranger, Swallow Man. Poland is much too dangerous to settle in one place so this odd duo become nomads. Traveling off the beaten path, trying to survive and outlive the horrors of the Nazi invasion. Swallow Man teaches Anna how to survive—how to eat from the forest, how to barter, how to overcome adversities. Swallow Man is very good at observing or studying people and then knows how to get what he needs or wants from them. He is the ultimate con man; a master of deceit. Throughout this book I had many questions, who is this man, what does he have to hide from, what is cultural background and why does he befriend Anna? And what that of Anna—is she Jewish, what makes her trusting of a troubled young man they find along the way?
I continued with questions right up to the end of this book—why, why, why! The book first left me hanging and I was mad. Then I began to reflect on this beautifully written story–in the end I compared this book to Jonathon Livingston Seagull—discovering of greater truths are unobtainable until we are willing to forgive the wrongs that are done to us!
Definitely YA book—Anna at one desperate point in the story needs to sell herself.