All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

I have a now brother.
He doesn’t look like me.
I’m too much fall–
wet brown leaves
under a darkening sky.
Tommy is summer–
sunlight, peaches,
wide, grinning sky.
Even Tommy’s hair is summer.
Curls cling to his scalp like
the yellow-and-white sweet corn
at McGreavy’s Market.
Only one straight tuft sticks up,
like a clump of sun-scorched hay.

(p 8 )

all-the-broken-piecesWhen he was ten years old (but looked six) Matt was given to American soldiers by his Vietnamese mother so that he could escape the war. Adopted by a loving American family, Matt carries the heaviness of a past defined by war and a secret shame.

All the Broken Pieces is like a short story by Hemingway. Told in verse, the words are short and the sentences terse but packed with meaning. The descriptions are tied to nature and lovely in a straightforward way that reminded me of Hemingway.

The days are getting
really warm.
Summer is sitting
on spring
and squeezing out
all the wetness.

(p 218)

There isn’t an extraneous line in the novel. It will take about two hours to read but you’ll find yourself reflecting on it long after you finish. Just beautifully written, the story unravels with polished eloquence. A definite contender for the Printz, in my estimation.


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