by Jennifer L. Holm
First sentence: “My brother Wilbert tells me that I’m like the grain of sand in an oyster.”
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It’s just a few months after our last adventure with May Amelia, and nothing much has changed. She’s still the only girl on the Nasel. She still has a bucketload of brothers, even if her oldest brother, Matti, off and married an Irish girl (in secret because their father would highly disapprove) and moved to San Francisco. It’s still a tough life for them.
And things don’t get easier in this book. (I hate the cover, by the way. She’s too old, and what’s the deal with the chicken?)
The land is still hard to work, and when an a man interested in buying their land to incorporate a town comes along, it’s up to her to translate for their father. It sounds like a good deal, so they opt in, thinking about all the things they can get with their riches. It sounds like the Jackson’s boat has finally come in.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a book if that were the plot. There has to be conflict, right? And so things happen to May Amelia and her family: her brother loses a hand at the logging company; Matti comes back which creates tension with her second oldest brother, Kaarlo; her cousins come to America, after a horrific event in Finland, and there’s finally another girl, which is not exactly all that May Amelia had hoped.
And, most of all, there’s her father. I know this is 1900, but her father is so old-fashioned, so male-centric it’s painful. There are times when he treats May Amelia so badly that you just cry out for the poor girl. And yet, her resilient spirit and hope shine through. She is hurt, she is sad, but she doesn’t stop loving her family. May Amelia is a remarkable girl, and that shines through.
Like Our Only May Amelia, there’s not a whole lot of plot; it’s essentially just snippets from May Amelia’s life on the Nasel at the turn of the 20th century. It doesn’t matter, though: Holm captures us with her storytelling, with the spirit of the book, with a captivating picture of a way of living and a community.
Historical fiction at its best.