Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

 

Title: May B

Author: Caroline Starr Rose

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade

ISBN: 978-1582463933

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

I’ve known it since last night:
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Review:

I was a bit hesitant to read May B, both because it is written in verse, which a storytelling style that I am still getting used to, and because I was afraid that I would find May’s solitary adventure too stressful.  I needn’t have worried about either concern; once I picked this book up, I literally did not put it down until I finished it.  It is a very fast read, and May’s narrative is compelling and readable.  I wanted to see what happened next, and kept telling myself that I would only read for a few more pages.  Just a few more, and I would go do the laundry.  Guess what?  This story was much more engrossing than the wash.

May has been informed that she will be helping out some neighbors on their prairie homestead until Christmas.  She doesn’t want to leave home, doesn’t want to have to stop going to school to work for strangers that she doesn’t know.  Her mother expects her to be on her best behavior, and her father tells her that everyone has to help out wherever they can.  The money that she is earning by working for the Oblingers will allow her family to purchase badly needed supplies.  These words are slim comfort to May; she’ll be a long 15 miles away away from home, and she will miss her family.

Once May is dropped off at the shabby sod hut that will be her home for the next few months, she has feelings of dread.  Mrs Oblinger is only a few years older, and the new bride hates living on the Kansas prairie.  When Mrs Oblinger impulsively leaves the homestead to go back to Ohio, her husband chases after her, leaving May alone in unfamiliar territory.  As she waits, one endless day after the next, for their return, she begins to fret.  What if they don’t come back? How will she take care of herself during the winter until her father returns for her at Christmas?

May’s powerful personality shines through in her narrative.  Even though she is terrified of being alone, she resigns herself to the dark and quiet loneliness of the plains.  She has never really been alone before, and she doesn’t enjoy it at all.  Even though she no longer has to cook and clean for the less than friendly Mrs Oblinger, as least she had companionship when her employers were with her.  Now she has to forage for herself, and defend herself against wild animals.  Winter on the prairie is brutal, and she is overwhelmed by all of the preparations that she must make to survive once the snow falls.

May is a relatable character because her fears and worries are so clearly expressed.  With her family surrounding her at home, she knows her place and what’s expected of her.  Now that she is alone, she is confused and frightened.  Luckily, May is a clever, practical girl, and she has lived on the prairie long enough to know the basics of staying alive.  As the cold weather sets in, though, she begins to fear that she will never have the chance to fulfill her dreams of finishing school, learning to read, and becoming a teacher. 

While I was reading May B, I was appalled by the adults in May’s life.  Everyone she counted on abandoned her.  Her mother, her father, and the Oblingers all left her to fend for herself.  Despite her young age and her fear, May proves how capable and brave she is just by continuing to work from one day to the next.  It would have been so easy to give in to  hopelessness and despair, but May isn’t a quitter.  She approached her survival at the Oblingers’ with the same tenacity she approached her desire to read.  She just kept on trying her best to do what needed to be done to keep herself alive.

If you are looking for an engrossing account of life on the frontier during the 1800’s, pick up this fast, compelling read.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene