Wednesday, June 07, 2023

112. Tenmile

Tenmile. Sandra Dallas. 2022. [November] 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade]

First sentence: The baby stretched its arms and legs as Sissy wrapped it in the soft flannel blanket. She smiled at the wriggling infant with its tiny wrinkled face. 

Premise/plot: Sissy Carlson, the doctor's daughter, struggles with life in her hometown of Tenmile, Colorado, a mining town. When this children's novel opens, Sissy knows one thing for sure: she wants to leave Tenmile and never, ever, ever return. She sees only the negative aspects of life in Tenmile--the poverty, the poverty, the limited opportunities, the limited resources, the distinctions in social classes and in genders. (To be fair, I don't know so much that girls have it so much worse than boys in Tenmile. I think both boys and girls are expected to quit school at an early age--8 or 9--to work to help support the family.) To live in Tenmile is to live in misery from birth to death. 

This is historical fiction set in 1880s Colorado. The novel chronicles Sissy's experiences--again, mostly negative. She goes to school. She helps her father in and out of the home. She helps with his medical practice. She spends time with friends. She hates Tenmile. She knows that all of her friends and classmates are trapped in Tenmile. No bright futures for anyone unfortunate enough to live there. 

Her view shifts, however, by the end of the novel. Has she made peace with her hometown?

My thoughts: Tenmile is bleakity-bleak. Sissy is the complete and total opposite of Pollyanna. She doesn't see the good in anything or anyone. Not really. It was hard as a reader to like Sissy. She was such a downer. That's not to say that her views and opinions were unfair. I have no doubt that life in a mining town was harsh, cruel, unfair. There being no way to break the cycle of poverty. Once a child enters work in the mine, it's unlikely that they'll escape mining life. They'll risk their life every single day and still be stuck in poverty. Because the circumstances don't really change, it makes for an odd choice that Sissy decides that Tenmile is HER forever home, and that she wants to spend her life serving this community. That's not to say that attitudes can't change. But it's hard to reflect that well in the narrative. The town is peopled with characters that weren't super likable. (With one exception of Greenie.) Because the characters weren't all that wonderful to spend time with, this made for a different read. 

I think for those that like historical fiction and don't want particularly happy endings, this one could definitely work. 

I don't have to have tied-in-a-bow endings. I can accept history for history. I am thankful that the characters seem to reflect the life and times MORE than being twenty-first century characters dressing up. I think there were many elements of this one that were realistic.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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