Translated from the Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen, Nine Open Arms is a historical novel
with dry humor and a family story interwoven into one book.
Nine Open Arms features a motherless family, headed by a father who is a dreamer. He
takes risks that cause them to move frequently, until they come to live in this house at
the edge of civilization. Narrated by the oldest daughter Fing (the responsible one), Nine
Open Arms introduces us to the other family members: the feisty grandmother Oma
Mei, Fing’s sister Muulke who talks of life as a “tragical tragedy,” another daughter, and the four sons.
Their most recent move takes them to a house with a mystery: Why is the front door at the back? Why is the house as long as nine open arms? Why is there a bed that looks like a tombstone?
Lindelauf writes a character-driven story, while Nieuwenhuizen provides a glossary of slang words maintained in the English text, and translator’s note. Divided into three parts, the book takes place in 1930s, then transports the reader back to 1860s where another story begins about earlier occupants, and concludes with how that ties into the lives of the present.
Intermingled with dreary family circumstances is a dry sense of humor that finds the reader sympathetically smiling as the story unfolds. The illustrations on the front and back covers, as well as the end pages, help the reader visualize this peculiar house. At the heart of the mystery is a romance involving an extra-marital relationship.
Recommended for public and school libraries. Winner of the 2015 Mildred L. Batchelder Award (given to an excellent foreign children’s book translated into English), this book is suitable for middle and high school students.
Carol R. Gehringer
—reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2015.