King's second novel (after The True Life Story of Isobel Roundtree) focuses on the lives of two women-one long dead, the other alive but suicidal. Maybelleen was a famous turn-of-the-century outlaw, the last woman to be hanged in Texas. Margaret, who believes she is Maybelleen's grand-niece, is a depressed divorce who, 60 years later, unable to continue living but unsure why she is beset by intense unhappiness, becomes convinced that the solution to her problems can be found in Maybelleen's life. King tells each woman's story in alternating chapters. Maybelleen is shown escaping the limited life of a spinster schoolteacher in rural Kentucky and transforming herself into a lusty and dangerous outlaw partnered to Mexican Bill and committed to his scheme of building a homeland for the American Indians. Margaret, recovering from a suicide attempt, tries to understand the message she thinks Maybelleen may be sending her. Maybelleen's story is vivid, but it also is less believable; beside the larger-than-life Maybelleen, Margaret seems a shadowy thing. King, however, writes in a simple, direct, unsentimental style that well suits her subject, marking this novel as likely just a sophomore slump in the career of a talented author with a special feel for life's outcasts. (Apr.)
King (The True Life Story of Isobel Roundtree, LJ 8/93) presents here a lyrically written but unconvincing attempt to juxtapose the lives of two women who lived at different times. In 1958, 35-year-old Margaret is suicidal, having undergone a nervous breakdown and the breakup of her marriage. She leaves New York City for the family farm in Kentucky and becomes absorbed in the life of her great aunt Maybelleen. In 1899, teacher Maybelleen left Kentucky to marry a missionary intent on saving the Indians in Oklahoma but is soon disillusioned and leaves her husband and the mission. She is taken in by the outlaw Mexican Bill, falls in love with him, and is eventually hanged for a murder she didn't commit. Margaret's mixed feelings toward Maybelleen because she was considered crazy and her admiration for the courage it took to change her life become irrelevant when she suddenly discovers a family secret that leads to an unbelievably contrived happy ending. Recommended for larger collections only.-Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
King presents two distinct stories separated by more than 50 years, interweaving the individual plot strands into a poignant tapestry of self-discovery. In 1958, a woman attempting to recover from both a failed marriage and a nervous breakdown returns to her childhood home in rural Kentucky. Teetering on the edge of sanity, Margaret feels compelled to research and investigate the scandalous life of her long-deceased great-aunt. In 1899, Maybelleen MacGregor, a dissatisfied spinster schoolmarm, abruptly leaves Kentucky to marry a zealous missionary determined to both convert and civilize the Indians of the Oklahoma Territory. Stifled and disillusioned by life with her inflexible, unimaginative husband, Maybelleen flees with a gang of outlaws, discovering love and fulfillment in the arms of Mexican Bill, an idealistic, half-breed bank robber. As she unravels the mystery of Maybelleen's life and death, Margaret also unearths the long-buried secret of her own childhood and comes to terms with her own past and present. An absorbing tale of two women and the ties that bind across time and space.