Booktalks

While I Live Booktalk

By Joni R. Bodart
  • Grades: 9–12

The war was over. Peace had been declared four months ago. Life was supposed to be getting back to normal. And then it happened. The noises of the bush were drowned out by shots, several volleys, lasting five or six minutes. Homer, Ellie and Gavin had spent over two hours hiking up the spur, but by the time the shots stopped, they were almost halfway back home.

Ellie found her mother on the kitchen floor, her body destroyed by dozens of high powered bullets.  Blood was everywhere. Mrs. McKenzie was in the pantry. They'd used only one bullet on her. Her father was in one of the sheds, and he'd gone down fighting, taking four of the killers with him. His body was in pieces, just like her mother's. The men who'd done it were professionals, no doubt about it. Someone from the other side of the border had come across and slaughtered three of the people Ellie loved most. She and her friends had done a lot of damage during the war. It was almost certain that the vicious killings had been in retaliation.

Somehow Ellie made it through the funerals, the sympathetic visitors who brought food only Gavin could eat, and urged her to cry, when everything inside her was numb. A week after the funerals, Fi came to stay, and Ellie finally noticed that Homer had been taking care of the livestock that she was too grief-stricken to remember about. With their help, Ellie began to come back to life, to take care of the property, open the mail and answer the phone. But then the lawyer her father had hired called to say he had to see her. She was broke, and would have to sell the property, and move herself and Gavin into town. There were two mortgages and huge lease payments to three of the four families who had gotten part of their property after the war. They needed $2000 a week to keep going, and there was only enough money in the bank for about a month.

It looked like selling out was the only option, but Ellie was not a quitter, and selling the land would mean that the men who murdered her parents would win again. She was not going to let that happen.  Like Gavin said, "You have to fight. If you fight, you win or you lose. If you don't fight, you always lose."

Ellie and her friends had won one war. Now she was going to have to try to win another.

  • Subjects:
    Challenges and Overcoming Obstacles, Death, Grief, Loss, Cleverness, Creativity and Imagination
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