This was an amazing and heart-wrenching story and yet totally beautiful! It is based on an historical town in France and the sacrificial efforts given to save others – children being the focus of this novel. The characters are complex, most with back stories of pain and yet figuring out how to truly live during this war.
Magali is only 15 years old, but she has a burning desire to help. She is finally able to join Paquerette, her hero, in smuggling refugee children from internment camps. She finds the trips more difficult, exhausting, and dangerous than she could have imagined, but she longs to always be the one chosen to go. Her quick mind and determination are helpful, but she must learn that she can not save everyone. She must also let go of her pride and realize “that this is not a hero’s business.” However the lessons don’t sink in until she puts Paquerette in danger.
“There’s only one thing you can do, Magali. And that’s go on. No one turns back time. No even God. You’re not alone. You’re only young. But I tell you true, when you get to my age, there’s no one, not a one, who doesn’t have one thing they’d cut off their hand not to have done. You lie awake at night and think about it. But it’s done. The past doesn’t change. You can pray that God makes good out of it. I believe he can. But even that…even that you may never know.” [Magali’s grandfather, pg. 297]
I highly recommend Defy the Night!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.
1. What is the best part about writing a book with your mom? How did you structure the collaboration?
Our collaboration has always been: Mom writes the book, I re-write it. This happened because she wrote two whole books before ever asking me to be her co-author! (I think she started the first one when I was about twelve, and she wasn’t about to ask me then!) So I’ve used her version sort of as an outline: it tells me what needs to happen, and I re-write it in my own words.
The best part about writing with my Mom is that it’s kept us talking! We’ve always had a weekly phone date to talk about the books, and we’ve hashed out many a plot or pacing problem on a transatlantic call. (Because in fact I did make a lot of changes from her versions–but we always had to discuss them.) It’s been wonderful because in fact, we have a lot of respect for each other’s abilities and what they bring to the books. Mom’s initial plot choices established a depth for the books that I don’t think I could have brought to them on my own at my age, and she’s always respected my instincts for writing and my intuition about the characters. The characters we work with, and the true story they spring from, have become something we both care deeply about, so it’s a real joy to talk about them together. And of course it’s pretty fun to “talk shop” with your own mom.
2. You’ve written about an aspect of WWII history that’s almost unknown in the U.S.–the internment camps set up in France to imprison foreign Jews, and the brave people who worked to get children released from them. What made you want to write about this particular story from history?
Lydia says: When I was researching the events of World War II in France, I came across a book about the aid workers (almost all young women) who rescued Jewish children from the camps, and later, took them out of other dangerous situations to places where they could be safely hidden. I was so impressed by the courage and devotion of these young women, that I wanted their story to be told, alongside the story of the town of Le Chambon, which had first inspired me to begin this series. That was my inspiration for inventing the person of Paquerette, who embodies something of the experience of many of these aid workers.
Heather says: It was Mom that really picked what to write about, but once I learned the whole story from her I was fascinated by it. It’s particularly interesting to me because it’s about these women, like Paquerette, who are doing this very heroic thing but the day-to-day actual work of it is largely childcare–as opposed to the usual strong & heroic girl character in fiction who’s not considered impressive enough unless she fights. I liked the chance that gave me to explore the question: what does heroism really mean? When we desire to be heroes we’re usually wishing to be seen as heroes, but what if real heroism is obscure? What if it’s tedious and grueling and secret and no-one finds out? What if it involves changing diapers and comforting kids screaming in the night from nightmares and it doesn’t look impressive to the outside observer at all? And what does strength mean? I believe in women being strong, but pop culture gives us this awfully one-note narrative of what that means: you’ve got to kick some butt. Part of why I loved this story is that it gave me the chance to explore other kinds of strength and to celebrate women who are strong in ways that aren’t real obvious to the eye. Who cares what looks impressive on a screen? God sees reality.
3. Are you planning another book, and will it be in the same series or something different?
We’re planning a third book in the series, because Defy the Night doesn’t take us to the end of the war. It ends in 1942 and in the true story of Le Chambon–and of the war in general–that is actually when the truly dramatic things start happening. This one is still totally in the research stage–you can read my comments on the really interesting history I’ve been reading if you go to our writer page on Facebook but the general idea is that it will have more action and probably both Julien and Magali will be main characters. They’ve had their coming-of-age and they’re ready to truly plunge into the work.
We won’t be co-authoring this one, since Mom does not have a plot for it and (though I don’t have one yet either!) I feel ready to work on my own. But we plan to still consult pretty closely about it, because Mom’s still the expert on the history–and because we love talking about these books!