Hollow Chest by Brita Sandstrom is a heart-wrenching story, literally. It’s filled with darkness and unimaginable pain, yet in the midst of it all is an ever-clear message that love conquers all.
Charlie is a young boy forced to assume the role of a man as his older brother, Theo, is taken as a solider to fight in WWII. Struggling to take care of grandpa, comfort mom, and complete the daily chores and housework required, he’s grateful to hear news of Theo returning. All will go back to normal. But something’s wrong with Theo; he screams in the middle of the night, is coarse and callous, and seems empty and hollow. War wolves—ancient beasts that feast on grief and loss—have eaten his heart. Determined to save Theo, Charlie must venture into the unknown and face the wolves himself. What is he willing to sacrifice for his brother’s heart and will it be enough?
I enjoyed this book as more of a thematic and thought-provoking read than an exciting and entertaining story. The plot itself is interesting enough, but I feel like Sandstrom put more effort into the concept of war wolves and soldiers eaten hearts, than the actual story. Part of the reason I found this book so powerful and emotive was through Sandstrom’s metaphor and imagery of the war wolves. It’s not hard to imagine that the brutality and lasting effects of war—PTSD, isolation, depression—could be caused by a horrifying beast as Sandstrom describes.
I read this book in shades of gray. It was dark and gloomy with a tone of loneliness, but there was a glimmer of hope sprinkled throughout the chapters. The pure, innocent, unconditional love Charlie feels for his brother Theo pushes back against the gloom even at the worst of times. It brings balance and color to the pages, allowing our final thoughts to be hopeful and happy.
I recommend this book for anyone seeking a deeper, emotional read. Keep your mind open and your heart raw and I guarantee you will whole-heartedly enjoy this book. – Kira Kaplan