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MISSING MAY by Cynthia Rylant


by Cynthia Rylant

Age Range: 11 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-531-05996-0
Publisher: Orchard

 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+)