Author: Mario Escobar
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever.
Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his younger sisters, Isabel and Ana. When Marco’s parents align themselves against General Franco and his fascist regime, they have no inkling that their ideals will endanger them and everyone they love—nor do they predict the violence that is to come.
When the Mexican government promises protection to the imperiled children of Spain, the Alcaldes do what they believe is best: send their children, unaccompanied, across the ocean to the city of Morelia—a place they’ve never seen or imagined. Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but what ensues is a harrowing journey and a series of heartbreaking events. As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. And as their memories of Spain fade and the news from abroad grows more grim, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved.
Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me--now available for the first time in English--explores the agony of war and paints a poignant portrait of one family’s sacrificial love and endurance.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
When I first read the description of Remember Me by Mario Escobar, I thought it would be similar to stories of the British Home Children sent to Canada from 1869 to 1939. While those children did suffer, what happened to Morelia's children left me shaken, unable to sleep, and wishing the publisher had included a warning about its violent content.
The story focuses on three children, Marco, Isabel and Ana Alcalde. Their parents send them to Morelia, Mexico, believing they would be safer there than in Spain's war-torn country. Of course, as these things often go, the children would probably have been safer if they had stayed with their parents.
The author includes detailed accounts from actual survivors of Morelia. At times it reads not like a fictional novel, but more like someone recounting what happened to them. As if the author took the accounts and transcribed them into the mouths of his characters. It was so well done I had a hard time grasping the fact that this was a "fictional" book and not a memoir.
I also kept looking for some sign that it was a Christian book. Coming from Thomas Nelson Publishers, I expected to see at least some ounce of a redemption story, trust in God or faith in God in action. None of which was present in this story.
There was, however, a strong family bond. A love for his parents and his sisters was Marco's driving force. His desire to be united with his parents and his promise to watch over his sisters and keep them safe and together was heart-wrenching and did endear the characters to you. But, it was clear the Alcalde family were atheists. From Marco's thoughts, it is apparent they didn't trust Christians (especially Catholics) at all. One is ultimately left with the impression that Christians don't really care about orphans or people in general. This is an unfortunate commentary since this book is published by a Christian publisher. I am always looking for that glimpse of faith, redemption or hope in a Christian book. And while the Alcalde family had the hope of being reunited, as far as I could tell, faith in Jesus or trust in him was not central to this story.
While I expected some sad stories to occur because of the subject matter, I did not anticipate how descriptive the accounts of torture would be. I also was not expecting to catch a glimpse of a child being sexually abused by a priest through the eyes of the main character. What Marco does to the priest in retaliation was so vivid that I literally couldn't sleep last night. I cannot unsee what the author wrote. Which is why I wish this book had come with a warning. I am especially concerned for those reading it, who have been sexually abused. I have no doubt this particular scene will be a trigger for them.
Between the depressing scenes of how horrible their lives were, the sudden "romance" Marco finds with Maria was totally lost on me. It just didn't register that I was reading about a budding romance.
Overall, this is a well-written book. The author is an expert at helping the reader see through his character's eyes. I felt everything Marco and his sisters experienced. Which is probably why this book shook me up so much. Escobar's research is impeccable, and from his notes in the back of the book, it is clear most of it are real accounts from the orphans who lived through it.
Before this book, I had never heard of the war in Spain. I had no idea this all happened before Hitler started WWII. I come away educated about a horrible atrocity and sickened by what happened to the children of Morelia. If anything, the author has shown what can happen when ideologies clash, what people will do to prove they are right and how far they will go to make their idea of justice come true. Even if it means civil war. A lesson to learn in a world where not agreeing with the majority opinion today could become a dangerous thing tomorrow.
I received this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers, through NetGalley, for my honest opinion.
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