I started reading For The May Queen disliking the title and cover. That’s an early and easy prejudice to get through. The title made sense after I was reminded of the lyrics the song had been taken from, Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. I especially didn't like the cover photo, though. The model didn't look young at all, with dowdy looking clothes, she seemed about 30 years, staring at a wilted flower. I would have preferred a photo of a punked up looking rock girl with a stoogie and attitude. Once I got past these minor flaws and prejudices, the book flowed from beginning to end. I finished the book in less than 20 hours.
Very simply written, in first person, the dialogue flows along with the story. I've always been curious about what it would have been like to go to college as a teen since I never experienced it. It’s difficult to read Kate Evan’s For The May Queen and not compare one’s own experiences since that's what this book is all about: the main character Norma’s early experiences learning to be on her own while attending college. I never had a childhood or teen years and was forced to be adult beyond my years because of my family situation. I didn't get to go to college until I was 28 years old. It was all about fixing my life and having a career so I could support my son as a single mom. Naturally the stepping-stones and rituals that Norma focused on made me curious.
Norma defines the ritualistic separation that takes place when we leave home for the first time and how this evolves along with her search of self. Parallel to this is young Norma simultaneously seeking her voice as a writer while she searches for her identify. Part of Norma’s learning experience is the richness of people she’s exposed to and drawn to. Naturally drawn to nonconformists, Norma recognizes her own hidden depths and how she too is somehow different.
Norma at first only knows herself through how she imagines her friends see her. When she discovers her roommate is gay and realizes the special closeness he had with another mutual male friend is based on this, Norma begins to question her sexuality. She realizes that she loves Chuck because he inspires her to see the world differently. Chuck’s “movie vision view” of the world and his capacity to quote Casablanca and make it fit everyday events make him special. Norma disappoints Chuck after a night of sex and love, by protesting to her unfaithful boyfriend who shows up unannounced that “it meant nothing.” This ends the romance between her and Chuck but after this occurrence Norma begins to explore her inner motivations more.
Kate Evan’s novel engrossed me with its sharp wit and humor. I couldn’t help but get involved with her characters. They are similar to the highly artistic creative people we know, each with his or her own brand of quirky eccentric traits. Her characters are real; I could hear their voices.
An entirely engrossing read, I highly recommend Ms. Evan’s first novel, For The May Queen. As a former educator I would recommend this book for high school students as well as adults.