I can be sensitive at times, but it isn’t very often that a book has me laughing or teary-eyed at nearly every turn. From the beautiful to the terrible, reading The Mighty Miss Malone, written by Christopher Paul Curtis and read by Bahni Turpin, was an emotional roller coaster (in a good way).
Deza Malone is one of the most spirited, lovable literary characters I have read in a long time. Bahni Turpin’s Deza was so believable that I felt like the she was sitting right next to me, telling me her story. In fact, I felt like I was with her whole family: Turpin’s voice acting was so good that listening to the book was like watching a play with many different (and superb) actors.
Deza is 12 years old and living in Gary, Indiana during the Great Depression. Her supportive and tight-knit family is struggling to make ends meet in a time where racism is inescapable. Their love for one another nearly transcends their misery, but not quite; poverty is always hovering over them like a dark cloud. Deza’s father is unable to find work, her brother Jimmy isn’t eating enough to grow, and Deza is beginning to lose her teeth. In spite of this, the Malones are able to find humour in nearly everything (including the time Deza discovers that her mother has been sifting bugs out of the oatmeal and feeding it to the family every morning).
Poverty is one of the factors in this book, but it is definitely not the defining one. For one thing, there’s Deza herself. She is brilliant and charming, and aspires to be a teacher. She even reads us an essay about her family, which is sweet and hilarious. Because of Curtis’s captivating writing style, the story lends itself wonderfully to being read aloud. While I was listening to this book, I was in a different time and place: the Midwest during The Great Depression.
The Mighty Miss Malone is an adventure with so many twists and turns that I never knew what was going to come next for Deza’s family as they are forced to travel far from home just to survive. I don’t want to say too much here, but trust me: you won’t be able to put the book down. In the end, we can see how much Deza lives up to her title. She is the mightiest of Malones, optimistic in even the direst of circumstances.
This audiobook had me totally captivated. I know a book is good when I recommend it to nearly everyone I meet, and this one had me doing just that. This is not a story or a family that I will easily forget. Christopher Paul Curtis says in his Afterword that he wanted to leave kids curious about the time period and wanting to do more research; he should know that it had the same effect on at least one adult reader! Above all, this was the sort of book that made me feel such empathy for other human beings that I would recommend it to anyone who just wants to get totally caught up in someone else’s story. Because really, for me at least, that’s what reading is all about.