Book Review: Kids can never really understand their parents in The Children’s Crusade

The Children’s Crusade splits roughly equal time between the four children of the Blair family—Robert, Rebecca, Ryan, and James each get chapters from the perspective of their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Their stories are largely dedicated to the influence—good and bad—of their parents. The book opens on future family patriarch Bill Blair as he drives through California the day after he’s discharged from the army. Bill is depicted in a few sparse pages, but Ann Packer is so skillful at packing volumes into a few words that Bill’s perspective is deftly drawn in a couple masterful strokes. His wife, Penny, not so much. The reader sees little of who she is, but that’s another careful design by Packer: Understanding Penny’s motivations and desires would give the reader a better understanding of her than her children. Instead, the reader empathizes with her kids …

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