Title: Missing MayMissing-May1
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Pages: 89
Recommended Ages: Not Recommended
Star Rating:

I knew Missing May was going to be weird before I even reading it, but I was still a little surprised by the extent of its weirdness.

The Story.

Summer has lived with Aunt May and Uncle Ob since she was six years old and none of her other relatives really wanted her. Not that she’s complaining about that – living with May and Ob is the best thing that ever happened to her and she loves them both. But suddenly May is dead. She just dropped one day while she was outside gardening – they never even got to say goodbye to her. And now they’ve got nothing to do but miss her.

But one Sunday, Ob is certain that he can feel May’s presence, that she’s trying to communicate with him. Summer believes him but can’t think of how to interpret what May’s trying to tell them. Luckily, Cletus Underwood, the strange boy from school who collects pictures from magazines, knows about a Spiritualist Church over in Glen Meadows, just three hours away. If anyone can figure out what Aunt May is trying to say, the Reverend Miriam B. Young can!


Oh, goodness. Where do I start? As some of you may have surmised from the synopsis, this is not the sort of story I would call wholesome. At all. I mean, it was sweet that Ob and Summer missed May as much as they did, but there the sweetness ends. The rest is….. hmm.

So, obviously, the premise of the story is that the dead can return to the world of the living and communicate with them. May comes back and tries to communicate to Ob. The whole rest of the story is about Summer, Ob, and Cletus trying to figure out how they can most effectively communicate with May. They have lots of discussions about her presence and other ghostly subjects. Finally Cletus suggests that they visit a Spiritualist church which is led by a female pastor who can communicate with the dead.

The really sad thing about this story is that because Ob and Summer are not Christians, they have no consolation for their loss of a beloved one. Instead of taking joy in the fact that May was taken in accordance with God’s will, they are cast into utter depression by it. Ob feels that his life no longer has any meaning because his identity was tied up in May rather than in Christ, and instead of purposely investing more time in Summer now that her main mentor us gone, he leaves her to her own devices. While Ob and Summer could have bonded together and softened the blow of May’s absence, they instead falter and flounder.

Summer says of her life after May died that “we were put on a different road, and like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, we were all hoping that there really is a wizard of Oz. And that in that Emerald City we will find what it is Ob needs to finally rest his soul.” [pg. 43]

When Summer is struggling with her loss, she comments,

“She [May] would just tell us we don’t have give up if this life doesn’t give us everything we want. There’s always another one.

But that’s where May and me always parted company. Because I never could count on another chance at happiness. When I got Ob and May after all those years of having nobody, that was my idea of dying and going to heaven. I never expected something that big to happen to me more than once.” [pg. 23]

Cletus tells a story of one time when he nearly drowned. He claims that he ‘passed on’ and saw his grandpa and his little dog who had died three years before. He says that he would have stayed there except his grandfather told him to go home. Ob and Summer believe his story.

After Cletus suggests that they visit the spiritualist church, Ob jokes that he is a ‘Rent-a-Séance’ man rather than a Renaissance Man.

Summer mentions that Ob was “probably praying to [May] all the way to Putnam County, praying to her to come back to him and tell him what to do now without her.” [pg. 68]

This quote is from page 79:

“May always said we were angels before we were ever people. She said when we were finished being people we’d go back to beings angels.”

Ob, Summer, and Cletus watch a tango on television.

On page 58, Summer comments that “Ob always said cussing was like taking a strong drink of whiskey. It thawed him out and got his engine running again.” [pg. 58] Speaking of cussing…..

‘Hell’ and ‘swear to God’ are used twice; ‘damn’, ‘holy crap’, and ‘heck’ are used once each.

Conclusion. Definitely not a story that I would recommend, Missing May teaches the idea that the living can remain in contact with the spirits of the dead and thus promotes an anti-Biblical belief.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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