Okay, I admit it. I cried. And cried. And cried. In fact, I’ve been trying to decide for days how I was going to write up this post. My feelings about this book were a lot like my feelings about certain movies I’ve seen that were deep, powerful, moving, and so painful that I couldn’t recommend them to anyone else.
Most of Our Only May Amelia is just purely entertaining. May Amelia is the only girl in a family of seven boys, and in fact, is the only girl in the whole settlement. She wants to do everything her brothers do, and why not? Except that May Amelia lives in rural Washington in 1899. So we get to follow May Amelia as she pushes against the boundaries of propriety, and that part is enjoyable. I was really rooting for her.
Which I guess is part of the point. I was so completely rooting for her, that when bad things started happening, I just couldn’t handle it.
Now I know that life in 1899 was hard. I guess maybe I have no concept of how hard. Or maybe I’m just weak. I had a similar feeling reading Wuthering Heights recently. As one person after another in Wuthering Heights died, I thought either this is the most depressing book of all time, or life was really, really, horrible in England in the 1800s. (For the record, Wuthering Heights IS the most depressing book of all time.) Apparently life was just as hard, and death just as real in May Amelia’s Washington. I know that some my
over-reaction is because the one main death that occurs is my worst fear — the thing that wakes me up in a cold sweat at night and causes me to place a hand on baby’s chest to make sure he’s still breathing. So, yes, I am weak, and May Amelia’s pain was so real to me that I still feel overwhelmed with sadness as I type these words — a week after I finished the book.
If you’re stronger than me, read this book. Just keep a box of tissues handy.
Our Only May Amelia, by Jennifer L. Holm
Newbery Honor Book – 2000
AR Level: 4.8, Middle Grades