1993: Missing May (Dead and…Gone?)


Laurinda’s Rating: 2.5/5

The 1993 Newbery Medal Winner, Missing May, explores the process of grieving, from what happens to a person after death to why a person chooses to stay alive if given an option.

Summer lost her mother at a young age and bounced between various relatives houses until Aunt May and Uncle Ob brought her home. Although they were older and had health challenges, they created a warm, loving environment where Summer could always be herself. All this came crashing down when Aunt May dies unexpectedly. Summer is left dealing with her own grief, as well as that of Ob. The two are surviving, following their previous pattern, when Ob suddenly feels May’s presence. Summer mentally prepares to lose Ob too. However, her eccentric classmate Cletus leads them on a (failed) visit to a spiritualist church. Something sparks Ob’s desire to live. The book ends with Summer finally weeping for her lost aunt after an owl flying over sparks a tender memory.

This book is angsty and odd. As previously mentioned, it primarily chronicles the grieving process, tracking both Summer and Ob through the process of coming to terms with a loved one’s death. Neither the characters nor the plot are compelling. Summer is just an ordinary girl – Cletus mentions she’s a good writer but this is never shown and she makes no use of the talent in the book. Further, there is no specific turning point when Ob chooses life over death. Many small clues/loose-ends are established and never resolved, which hinder the plot development.

Not recommended for most people. It’s a fast read – I finished it over one lunch break – but utterly mediocre, with surprisingly little emotion for a book focused on loss. That said, the very ordinariness might make this an interesting/useful book for a child who has lost a loved one as it does a good job capturing the complexities of grief on both the personal and interpersonal levels.


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