Thursday, February 5, 2009

Given Her History by Melissa Vanbeck

I hope I am doing this correctly. At the end of reading this short story, I was wanting to know more. I really like story line that leave you in suspense but at the end I want to know the ending. I thought the author did a good job with the beginning taking you through the story through April-May's eyes.

This story was about this little girl April-May waking up one night in a ditch across from her house that was on fire and the only other family member that she knew that made it out was her brother Billy and his dog Jake. Her Father, Mother and brother Jake were burned and died in the fire. Also it sounded like the type of family life before the fire wasn't the best environment for a child. She mentioned her house not having an inside bathroom, and not being the cleanest. It also sounded like dad abused mom, and instead of doing anything mom just put up with it. The towns people also knew that Billy had set things on fire before and they suspected him on setting his family on fire.

I know from having kids that what kids hear and see is what they think is normal. So when April-May saw the abuse and the lack of cleaniness she thought is was ok. But when she went to live with another family after the fire she was caught of guard when she got to take a warm bath indoors, and get nice clothes that werent her brothers hand me downs.

By the end of this short story April-May went to live with this lady called Vivian in town. She new that if she just showed April-May alittle attention she could have a big impact on this little girls life and save her from turning out like her older brother. Finally two years after the fire when April-May and her dog Jake finally enjoyed being with Vivian her brother Billy showed up and was expecting April-May to go with him to be a family again. At that time Vivian mentioned she new he had set her pet rabbits on fire and she wasn't going to let him have April-May. That is when April-May knew she didn't want to be with him and that she enjoyed where she was.

Differences in character, plots, settings and themes – The short story “Given Her History” that I chose this week and the novel “Maltese Falcon” we read were different to me in many ways. First of all Sam was a detective solving murders and you the reader only got pieces of info as you went like in the game clue. In my short story “Given Her History” there really was no solving the mystery because April-May mentioned in the beginning about suspecting her brother to have set the fire. Secondly in the “Maltese Falcon” you didn’t know the ending until the end but in “Giving Her History” you knew the ending up front and went back in time to relive it.

Consider how the length of short story vs. novel impacts the story – After reading both I felt like you got more details and answers from the novel. Where at the end of the short story I felt there should have been more story. It was as if it just stopped with no explanation.

Which did you prefer in a given week and why? What did you like or dislike and why? – I can’t say I would be able to pick one over the other. I like piece of each of them. I like the story line of “Given Her History” just wish it went into more detail and didn’t just leave me hanging. I really didn’t care for the “Maltese Falcon” story line but liked the way the novel gave you what you need to keep reading until the end of the book. Then you felt like you knew what the book was about.

Differences between the short stories based on the gender of the author – In my opinion there were many differences between the author of my short story and this week’s novel. My short story was wrote by a woman and I feel she held back and didn’t make it as detective as the “Maltese Falcon” was which was by a man. I am not saying that women authors are not as good as males but I feel women put more emotions in it. “Given Her History” to me was more of a chick flick story.

Did the mystery in the short story work for you? – It wasn’t much of a mystery as it was suspense of what was coming next. I really liked it just wish there was more. It was one of those that you couldn’t put down.

Satisfied or unsatisfied by what happened in the end – I was satisfied with the ending because I got a good feeling that April-May finally had a chance to change her life and make something of her life. While reading I was sad that people actually treat their kids like that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy -

    This story is on my read list too. The title and first sentence were very intriguing to me. I liked your comparison between the Falcon and this story. One unfolded slowly to reach the end, the other started at near the end and then clarified how the characters got there and then went forward.

    The movie, "The Usual Suspects" has a similar mechanic in that the movie starts near the end and then proceeds to take the audience on a journey to that point. It would be hard for me to write like that - I think I prefer the step by step unfolding method better.

    I am looking forward to reading this short story, but am trying to find a good match to the weekly readings. I think this would more difficult in its comparisons, but is interesting in its contrasts with the Falcon: big city vs. smaller town, cosmopolitan vs. more rural, social dynamics vs. family dynamics, etc...

    Thanks for your detailed write up - enjoyed it!