At the height of the Allied liberation of Elba during World War II, 10-year-old Adriana Nardi finds herself tucked into a cabinet beneath the kitchen sink. Hidden there overnight by her mother to protect her from the bands of roving soldiers, Adriana longs to be released and set free into a world she no longer understands. Cataloging the sounds around her to pass the long night "three quick coughs, suck of a cigarette, murmur of prayer" she bristles at the confinement, her stubborn childhood courage deeply insulted at being forced to hide from danger. Sixty years later, Adriana again finds herself captive to circumstances beyond her control and flashes back to that night and the story that unfolded after she stepped from the kitchen cabinet.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Joanna Scott beautifully captures war as seen through the innocence of a child. Mostly isolated from the occupying German soldiers, young Adriana views the war alternately as a grand adventure and a grand nuisance. It is not until her accidental discovery of the fleeing Amdu Diop, a Senegalese solider barely more than a child himself, that the war becomes tangible for both. Amdu's displeasure at being a soldier matches Adriana's despair at being sheltered from adventure and they soon learn that each is able to offer what the other is seeking. Together, they help to free each other from the aftermath of the liberation.
As Adriana remembers her past, Liberation winds its way through the New Jersey landscape seen from her Manhattan-bound train and the terrain of her childhood memories of war-torn Elba. The result is a deeply moving story of the surrender of innocence and love and the struggle to remember the cost of both. Meredith McGuire writes from New Jersey.