May B. A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose is a true healing story. Its raw, awkward, and uncomfortable rhythm mimics the main character. Yet the more I read it to my boys the more freely the words ebbed and flowed from me. Just like the Kansas prairie in the 1870’s this story is sparse and simple requiring commitment to get past the first half of the book before the reward of hard work and a good story pulls you in. The beauty of this book is the way Rose develops May B. throughout the story mirroring her internal struggle to read with her external struggle to survive. Sometimes a bad situation often does make a person better.
This story offered me and my boys plenty of opportunity for deeper conversation. Its general feeling of depression disturbed me at first. It was not the feel good story I was looking to read right after Christmas. The author’s unusual use of prose made me worry that my boys would get frustrated trying to follow its lack luster story line. Fortunately, by the middle of the book they were hooked! Comments like, “those kids are being mean to her” and “I feel bad for May” showed that both of them could relate just fine to May and her struggles.
The part I loved most about this story is that May B.’s struggle didn’t just go away at the end of the story. What did go away was May’s lack of confidence in herself. In the end my boys and I saw that maybe she can do some things and maybe she can’t do others but either way she was loved! That is something I want my boys to know and understand about themselves.