Wednesday, November 28, 2012

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

I blew through this novel in verse like a blizzard on the prairie. This pleasant, fast hour and a half read will be great for students; however, it didn't quite work for me. May lives with her family on the Kansas prairie and is pulled from school so she can make money working for a newly married couple. The bride is young and surly toward May. It isn't clear if she is a mail-order bride (she says she isn't but it seems that she is) or daughter of someone wealthy. I wasn't sure the significance of the red dress except it was impractical. The bride came from Ohio and is depressed living isolated on the prairie in a leaky-roofed sod house. Seems like she was a city girl (or saloon girl in a red dress). I wasn't sure if May was supposed to be a companion to the bride or just a house maid. May isn't happy to be in the new household working either. She wants to be in school learning and longs to be home with her parents and brother. I thought the two lonely females would be drawn to each other, but that is not to be. When things go horribly amuck with the newlyweds, May has to learn to survive in a hostile environment.

The author does a nice job with the feel of the prairie and remoteness.  I was a little confused as to the stories time-frame  At the end of the book it said May was gone for five months which let me calculate that May went to the other family in August. May's family needs money which is why she is sent to work 15 miles away. Before going, we see the rapport she has with her brother and the nice mixture of sibling rivalry with her being jealous of her brother at times and them enjoying each others company at other times. 

I needed more tension between characters. I was interested in the bride and May but the interaction ended too soon. Their unresolved feelings left me with wanting more. I did like the twist at the ending in regards to the bride's husband. My interest waned in the middle when the action dropped and the story-line switched to flashbacks about dyslexia and teachers shaming May. The flashbacks aren't really crucial to moving the story forward and it seemed like old information as a result. That's why I lost interest in it anyway. You decide for yourself. 

I haven't read many novels in verse and it seems very difficult trying to provide a tangible setting and well-rounded characters as opposed to prose. The limited use of words in a poetic format make it easy to not give enough information. Add to that the challenges of line breaks and rhythms that make for a clear narrative arc and I have to say I admire those who tackle this type of structure when writing a book. As a reader, I have noticed that with novels in verse I look for the overall effect of both the story and words. Some books I notice the poetic images and words; whereas in other books I notice the narrative arc and not so much the words. Others I notice both. In May B. I noticed the plot more than the stanzas. In the end, I found that I just wanted more to the story with the plot and characters.

Reading Level 3.7
3 out of 5 Smileys

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