Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freeman

Product DetailsDid you know that mosquitoes are SO bad in the far north that people can DIE from them? Me neither.
Did you know that if you're trapped in a forest fire you should find the widest part of a river and stay there, but don't ever hide in a well or basement? I know. Who would've thought?
And ...hypothetically saying, of course...if you needed to keep your dead away from animals and had no time (or ground is too frozen) to bury them, the best place is on the roof or hung in a thin tree that bears can't climb? All true.
These are just some of the tidbits to be found in "Mrs. Mike".

When I first started reading it I thought it would be kind of like "Little House On The Prairie" for grown ups. And it does have that soothing feel to it. But this is definitely much grittier.And the 'soothing' bits that at the beginning of the book you kind of snooze through, well, you'll be desperately grasping for them by the middle. Ever read "These Is My Words", "Sarah's Quilt" and "The Star Garden" by Nancy Turner? Well think of this as an Arctic version.

A 16 year old girl from Boston falls in love with a 27 year old Canadian Monty and travels with him to the 'wild barbarian north' where he is stationed, (4000 miles from Boston). She is one of only two white woman among a colony of trappers and Indians. There are no stores, no doctors, no nothing. How does someone make a life for themself in a land where life is so tragic that people speak of their "first family, second family, third family"? Well this is the story of one woman who did just that and did it well.


SEX: None
LANGUAGE: very mild cussing
DRUG USE/SMOKING/DRINKING: One character gets drunk. Whisky is also liberally used as anaesthetic.
VIOLENCE: Moderate and descriptive.
*While some could argue that the story could be told without the descriptive "violence", I really feel you would lose the authentic feel of what those hardships were like and how these experiences moulded the characters. I feel that the descriptions are needed to truly get into the shoes of the characters and feel what they feel. 

 I'll give you ONE example~
During the forest fire, women and children are hiding in the river. The smoke is so bad and the heat so intense that they have to submerge themselves under water to escape it, and even then, some end up with second degree burns. Many who are not in the river will die (and there are descriptions afterwards of the search for bodies). Now, some time later, Kathy makes a trip back home to Boston and is struck dumbfounded when her mother's lodgers are squabbling about who burnt the toast. It was a WOW moment for me and I don't think I would have felt the full impact if I as a reader hadn't been in the thick of the horror. 

 THEMATIC ISSUES: Trapping, smallpox and diphtheria epidemics, amputation, childbirth, domestic violence (NOT glorified), abortive herbs (also not glorified), widespread forest fire, Arctic conditions etc


BOTTOM LINE: Well worth a read!!

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