Reviews for Missing May


Kirkus Reviews 1992 January
A gifted writer returns to one of her favorite themes--love- -in this case, as it can inform and transform grief. After her mother's death, Summer was handed from one unwilling relative to another, ``treated like a homework assignment somebody was always having to do.'' At six, she was taken in by an elderly uncle and aunt. Ob had a game leg (WW II) and enjoyed creating unusual whirligigs; May liked gardening behind their West Virginia trailer. They loved each other with a deep and abiding love, wholeheartedly including Summer. Now, six years later, May has died. In a poetic, ruminative narrative, Summer recounts Ob's mounting depression, his growing conviction that May is still present, and their expedition to find ``Miriam B. Conklin: Small Medium at Large.'' Meanwhile, they've been befriended by Cletus, an odd, bright boy in Summer's class; she doesn't especially value his company, but is intrigued by his vocabulary (``surreal''; ``Renaissance Man'') and his offhand characterization of her as a writer. The quest seems to fail- -Reverend Conklin has died--but on the way home Ob finally puts aside his grief to take the two young people to the state capitol as promised: ``Right out of the blue, he wanted to live again.'' Rylant reveals a great deal about her four characters, deftly dropping telling details from the past into her quiet story--including a glimpse of Summer, as seen by a girl in her class, ``like some sad welfare case,'' a description the reader who has read her thoughts will know to be gloriously untrue. A beautifully written, life-affirming book. (Fiction. 11+) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1992 February #1
This short novel is a study of grief--chiefly, that felt by Summer after her foster mother's sudden death, but also her sorrow at witnessing the grief of Ob, her foster father--she realizes that she herself may not be reason enough for him to go on living. And for several months it seems as if he may not in fact go on, until Summer and Ob take a short car trip that somehow transforms their lives. In a direct, matter-of-fact voice occasionally laced with irony and wry humor, Summer articulates many discerning insights about sorrow and loss. The reader remains a distant observer of her emotions, however--perhaps because the novel begins after May's death, making her a less immediate figure, perhaps because Summer's perceptions are quite sophisticated, even adult. And the novel's emotional turning point is difficult to grasp, either verbally or intuitively: all Summer, and we, know is that ``something happened to Ob'' to make him embrace life fully again. Ages 11-up. (Mar.) Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1998 September
Gr 5-8-In spare, graceful prose, 12-year-old Summer talks about her deceased Aunt May, who raised her, and attempts to get beyond her own grief and to help her uncle survive. The characters are simple people without means, but their wisdom and love for one another transcend earthly bounds. (March, 1992) Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1992 March
Gr 5-8-- They've been a family for half of Summer's 12 years, and when her Aunt May dies, a little bit of Summer and her uncle Ob dies too--and his whirligigs go ``still as night.'' Ob's 'gigs are his ``mysteries,'' works of art that capture the essence of Storms, Heaven, Fire, Love, Dreams . . . and May. For a time, he seems to be failing, and Summer fears she'll lose him, as well. Then he claims to have been visited by May's spirit. And, stranger still to Summer, he takes a liking to that ``flat out lunatic,'' Cletus Underwood. Lunatic or no, Cletus steps unhesitatingly into the space May has left, and all three take off on a journey in search of May. It's an ill - fated journey that, nevertheless, lets Ob and Summer turn a corner in their grieving--and sets Ob free. With homely detail, Rylant plunges readers into the middle of Summer's world, creating characters certain to live long in their memories. Her tightly woven plot wastes no words; May's death and the course of her husband and niece's grieving are both reflected in and illuminated by the state of Ob's mysteries and the course of that interrupted journey of discovery. There is much to ponder here, from the meaning of life and death to the power of love. That it all succeeds is a tribute to a fine writer who brings to the task a natural grace of language, an earthly sense of humor, and a well-grounded sense of the spiritual. --Marcia Hupp, Mamaroneck Pub. Lib., NY Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information.

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