For book club this month we are reading Meet the Austins by Madeline L'Engle. We don't actually meet to discuss it for another 2 weeks or so, but I wanted to write down my thoughts before they all got buried.
Overall, I liked this book quite a bit. It's a light, easy read that brings up difficult life experiences realistically without being overbearing or even very traumatic. The basic plot is that a family with four kids essentially volunteers to take care of another girl from a very different background after this girl's father is killed, leaving her an orphan. She disrupts their complacent lives - not always intentionally - as they all learn to adapt to their new situation. The family deals with death, non-life-threatening injuries/illness, disagreements, and more, but it's never depressing.
What I found to be most interesting in the book is seeing in what situations the parents in this family felt it was appropriate to tell the children what was happening (and which children to tell), and when they felt it was better to keep them in the dark. The viewpoint character is quite perceptive and readily picked up on when there was something they were not being told, and usually the parents noticed and filled her in soon thereafter, but the youngest children often didn't get told at all (or they did, but not until much later). For example, near the beginning of the book when the children find out one of their dear family friends was killed, the parents also are asked to take in this little girl whose dad was killed in the same plane crash, but the children don't find out until the day before (or possibly the same day, I can't remember) the girl actually arrives. Now, to me it seems like that would have been something they would tell their own children a little sooner, if only to get them used to the idea, but then again maybe it wouldn't be the best option in this situation because of all the grief the children are dealing with. And I suppose it also depends on the family dynamics too. I don't think there's a "right" way of handling that situation, at least not one that would always work with every family, but the way it was handled in the book seemed a little different than how I would expect most parents to handle such a situation. There were several other instances along the same lines as well.
I am quite curious though to ask my book club friends in what sorts of situations they find it appropriate to withhold information from their children, particularly when it directly impacts them. And if any of you want to chime in on the topic in the comments, feel free. :)