Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mary Mehan Awake

Mary Mehan Awake by Jennifer Armstrong ***

Young adult novel, only about 100 pages long, set in the US around the time of the Civil War. As the novel begins, the war has just ended, but Mary is mentally and physically exhausted after two year working as a nurse to wounded soldiers. She goes to work as a maid for a scientist and his wife in upstate New York. There she meets another servant, Henry, a former artillery man who was deafened in the war. It's a love story, of course, but also the story of how Mary recovers from her experience of the war. The whole thing is from her point of view, we never really find out what Henry is thinking. They communicate solely by writing. No magical cure either. I really liked this book--the writing is really excellent. The descriptions of the landscape, and the sensitive portrayal of their feelings, are remarkable. This novel is actually the sequel to The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan which tells about how Mairhe/Mary emigrates to the US from Ireland with her family as a teen, and how her brother is killed in the Civil War (although I haven't read the first book). There is also an edition that combines both books under the title Becoming Mary Mehan.

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