Friday, May 31, 2013

Mary Marie (1920)

Mary Marie. Eleanor H. Porter. 1920. 136 pages.

Eleanor H. Porter is perhaps best known for her novel Pollyanna. The heroine of Mary Marie is thirteen; the book is her "journal." In this "journal" Mary Marie records the details of her life mainly focusing on her parents' divorce. The chapters are arranged to reflect the six months with her mother and the six months with her father. Her father calls her Mary; her mother calls her Marie. This is an ODD book. Are Mary Marie's reflections to be taken seriously? For in her entries, this young woman is EXCITED and THRILLED that her parents are divorcing and that she'll have two homes, two bedrooms, two schools, etc. She's also extremely eager for her mother to remarry. She notes how she wants her journal to have romance in it; a new love story for her mother OR a new love story for her father. She watches her mother closely looking for anything that may indicate a chance for romance. These observations she later shares with her father. When she's living with her father, she's equally observant and keeping her mother informed about what her father is doing. (Her second visit with her father, she has quite the story to report back to her mother since she thinks her father is in love.) Not everything that happens to Mary Marie is positive; readers may sense the confusion even before the heroine admits it. The interesting story is one readers have to piece together themselves: the true thoughts and emotions of each parent. Like The Parent Trap, Mary Marie has a happy ending with the divorce bringing ultimate happiness as the parents fall back in love with one another. But that is not the end of the story. There is an epilogue, a MESSY epilogue. One of those that makes you question everything that went before.

Before I began considering Mary Marie an unreliable narrator, before I began doubting her mental and emotional well-being, I thought the book was unrealistic, superficial, shallow. If one goes with the theory that there is more to the story, that Mary Marie isn't always a reliable narrator--that she's a young woman with emotional issues--then the novel becomes complexly layered.

There were things about Mary Marie that reminded me of Emily Starr.

Favorite quotes:
If I write the story part, I can't be expected to be bothered with looking up how words are spelt, every five minutes, nor fussing over putting in a whole lot of foolish little dots and dashes. 
The sun was slowly setting in the west, casting golden beams of light into the somber old room. That's the way it ought to begin, I know, and I'd like to do it, but I can't. I'm beginning with my being born, of course, and Nurse Sarah says the sun wasn't shining at all. It was night and the stars were out. She remembers particularly about the stars, for Father was in the observatory, and couldn't be disturbed.
No, I didn't listen. I heard. And that's a very different matter. You listen when you mean to, and that's sneaking. You hear when you can't help yourself, and that you can't be blamed for. Sometimes it's your good luck, and sometimes it's your bad luck--just according to what you hear! 
Stories are just like meals. You have to eat them--I mean tell them--in regular order, and not put the ice-cream in where the soup ought to be.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ms. Yingling said...

Wow. How interesting. I really want to read this one. Looking for a copy right now!

Best Books said...

Don't you just love great quotes. Some of my favorite quotes come from some of the strangest places.

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory" - Dr. Seuss ;)
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