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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is a fine writer, and I’m looking forward to reviewing other books of hers. But in spite of its Newbery Medal, I wouldn’t grab this book for a mid-younger tween without serious trepidation.

The beauty of the story lies in the masterful way C. Rylant portrays the characters and their grief and coping. Summer is a young girl (12) livimg with Ob and May, after her mother dies. She had passed through the homes of several relatives first. None of them truly loved or wanted her, but May and Ob did.

May is a lovely woman, and Ob and Summer love her dearly. When she dies, Ob can hardly bear the hurt, and Summer can hardly grieve because she’s worried about Ob.

Despite Ob’s mild cursing (cra_; hel_), there is plenty of wit and charm in this gentle character-study. When Ob is sure that May speaks to him, it is understandable and not creepy. Then, Ob finds a friend named Cletus,who happened to have had a near-death drowning experience. Ob has him stand in May’s garden because he might be some kind of conduit between both worlds (having been briefly to “the other side). It’s a heart-tugging , slightly humorous scene, though at this point, it is clear that these sorrowful souls have no faith of any sort to help them heal. They are simply certain May is in heaven and is happy.

It’s chapter 7 that loses me. Cletus brings Ob and Summer an advertisement for a spiritist church. At this point, Summer quips, “Surely he knew he’d never get Ob and me inside of a church, even if it served a thousand different kind of doughnuts.” There’s no indication in the book as to why these two might have such an over-the-top reaction, but they decide the Spiritist church with the medium-turned-séance leader may offer something. They intend to get the “Reverend” to help them contact the spiritual world and get in touch with May.

We are not subjected to any séances or attempts to contact the dead in the book. The Reverend died right before they arrive. Her nephew is willing to put them in touch with more psychics, but Ob says he isn’t “meant to do it.”

Such is the world we live in that recourse to psychics and spiritism is just another option.

I would like to agree.

Except that demons are real, and dabbling in any occult form is one way to potentially open yourself to demonic oppression, even possession (which is rare but on the rise).

Of course, such a point falls on the modern ear as anything from quaint to superstitious to ludicrous.

Padre Pio had the best response this modern-day skepticism: “You’ll believe in Hell when you get there.”

Safety Rating: 1/2 Flag

See Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Spiritism Forbidden: 2117
Conjuring the Dead: 2116


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