Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'm Back ... With a Book Review of May B.

Hello Blog Readers. I know some of you must think I fell off the edge of the world, but I didn’t. After the craziness of the holidays, my husband was hit with some serious germs, and I have spent my time nursing and worrying. We aren’t out of the woods yet and won’t be for quite awhile, so please excuse me if my blogging is spotty over the next couple of months.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I ran across this quote recently and think it really speaks to writers. I am going to make a little poster of it and hang it in my office. I thought it would be a nice way to start the blog post today. I think it would be equally useful for things other than writing, like decorating and fashion design and ………., well, who knows. You might want to fill in the blank yourself. But it is a particularly appropriate quote for a review of a fine book written in verse.

Last April, I reviewed a marvelous book, Three Rivers Rising by Jaime Richards. First, it is historical fiction – well researched and a compelling story. Second, it was written in verse. I found that fascinating. The language was so spare and beautiful. If you missed the review, you can read it HERE . There is also a nice interview with Jaime HERE .

You might wonder why I am bringing up these posts from last year, but I have a reason. It is by way of introducing a brand new book, just released this month. It is also historical fiction and is also written in verse. Now I love historical fiction. I love to read it and I love to write it. My second (not yet published) novel is historical fiction, and I have some other such pieces in the pipeline. But verse? Holy Guacamole! I don’t know how people do this, but Caroline Starr Rose has done it so very nicely in her debut novel, May B.

Caroline Starr Rose
12-year-old Mavis Betterly, May B., has lived most of her life in the plains of Kansas. It is the late 1800s and May and her family live in a sod house (soddy) miles from neighbors or towns. Her best friend is her older brother Hiram, who defends May when her reading disability makes things hard for her at school. It’s a hard life and the family of four struggles. When a neighbor offers to hire May to help his new wife with cooking and housework, May’s father agrees. May doesn’t want to go, but is given no choice. She worries about missing school, especially since she has such trouble reading. Her dream is to become a teacher one day, and she knows she can’t accomplish that if she can’t go to school. Her father promises he will get her back before Christmas, but five months stretches immeasurably for May.

Mrs. Oblinger is young. May thinks she’s not much older than May is. And she is a town girl – apparently miserable in her new life. Mr. Oblinger is a kind man and tries in every way to make his new wife happy. May does her work and thinks about home and her own family.

Ma’s probably rolling dough,
Maybe Hiram’s grinding coffee
Now that I’m not there to help.
He’s already brought the milk pail in.
When Pa gets back,
He’ll share what he heard in town.

May isn’t particularly happy or comfortable, but it’s clear she will do what she needs to do to meet the obligation her father set for her. One day, Mrs. Oblinger says she is going for a ride, but leaves a note behind saying that she is going home. When Mr. Oblinger reads the note, he takes the rifle, gets into his wagon, and tells May to not hold supper. He might be awhile.

Fear flashes inside me.
Pa never left Hiram and me without
All around me there is nothing
but the prairie and the sky.
“Silly girl,” I tell myself.
“There’s no reason to worry.”
But it takes time for my heart to slow.

May faces something few could – loneliness, fear, few supplies, wolves, and finally a huge blizzard. This is a story of courage and perseverance and resourcefulness. It is told in the clear voice of a young girl, true to the time and place of the story. It is beautifully written and a compelling read. You can easily read it in a day and I recommend you do. It is well worth your time.

Here is a link to a great book give-away you might want to check out:

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