Thursday, March 24, 2011

Miss Spitfire (MG)

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller. Sarah Miller. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 240 pages.

"Ticket, please."
I wipe at my eyes and thrust the wretched thing at him. I've already had to change trains six times since Boston. On top of that, I have to take this train north to Knoxville to catch yet another train south to Alabama.

I love Miss Spitfire. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Miss Spitfire. It's such a feel-good, oh-so-magical, ultimate-comfort read--at least for me. It's a novel about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. A novel about a teacher who wouldn't accept failure, who kept persevering, no matter how big the challenge, no matter how big the tantrum, Sullivan was NOT going to be beaten by a child.

Annie Sullivan is a young woman on a mission. Her job? To teach a child--a six year old child--who is blind, deaf, and dumb. It won't be easy. There has only been one successful case in the past to base their hopes and dreams on: Laura Bridgman. But Annie is strong-minded and determined. She'll need every ounce of stubbornness she has if she's going to master the willfulness of Helen. Used to getting her own way, Helen runs wild. And as Annie soon points out, the family expects better behavior from the dogs than they do their young daughter. Helen has never been disciplined a day in her life--at least since an illness left her blind and deaf. This journey from despair to hope, from chaos to communication, is an important one. It is full of emotion--as day by day Annie struggles to teach and love a child who fails to comprehend the meaning of words altogether. Anger. Frustration. Rage. Joy. Happiness. Fear. Hope. Despair. It's all here. Annie and Helen. This is their story.

If you've seen The Miracle Worker, you'll know the basic plot of this one. But it is Sarah Miller's writing that impressed me the most. I loved how she told this story.

After years of being blind myself, I can understand a mind without pictures, but I can hardly comprehend a mind without words. Words, songs, stories--they were the things I craved most before my sight was restored, for words explained the things my eyes couldn't show me. When I was blind, words were as vital as breath. (7)
"I'm not sure I can do this job. Yet a part of me understands Helen better than she does herself. I'm no stranger to frustration, anger, isolation. I wonder, though, how Helen can be content to deprive herself of my affection? The thought of her indifference makes my throat sting, yet I can't help feeling drawn to her. If I could only touch her heart, I know I could reach her mind. But she won't even let me hold her hand." (43)
"It seems nothing I do comes out right. But in my heart I know what's right for Helen: obedience, love, and language. Come what may and hell to pay, I'll find a way to give her all three." (64)
All these words, do they linger in her fingers after her lessons are through? (125)

And for the record, I loved, loved, loved the ending. It was oh-so-magical.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Eden the StorySnoop said...

I loved this book too! I hadn't read about Helen Keller before (only seen the movie as a kid), and it was remarkable to see how Anne Sullivan dealt with obstacles that most of us could never even conceive of!

Addicted to Paleo said...

Sounds like an amazing and touching story! Definately going on the TBR list :)


DesLily said...

did you hear me groan as I added this to my wish list? lol

Anne said...

Looks like a great read, am adding to my TBR list as well.

Grace said...


Grace, 11