If you have an empty block on your kitchen wall calendar this summer, “Twilight’s Indian Princess” by Margaret Jean Langstaff might just be the thing to fill in that space. This is fifth in my series of book reviews; I hope that my recommendations inspire you to read these books.
Ever have “that kind of day” where nothing goes as intended? Ever have one of “those” days that actually spread across years—maybe across a lifetime? Ever realize everyone around you is perpetually demanding, needing, pulling, provoking, and commanding even more from you while your see your life go unendingly neglected and suitably unfulfilled? Ever feel like dumping all it back on their heads like a hot mess and taking your life back for yourself?
Margaret Jean Langstaff brings this all together in “Twilight’s Indian Princes” through her protagonist, Sarah Sloan McCorkle, and frames the scenes into delightful, and at times, hilarious vignettes. This is a novelette short enough (40 pages) to read on the train to the office or during the lunch hour.
The story is framed around Sarah Sloan McCorkle and how her family treats her: from her nagging mother; to her sweet, yet ever-wanting, children; to her husband who, despite supposedly being below her station in life, she loves and appreciates and married anyway.
We see Sarah look at herself one day, and feeling “mired in her dark wintery responsibilities of daily life,” she looks to begin “to focus on focusing.” And so, one day, she focuses on the blank squares on the kitchen wall calendar. She sees them as representing unscheduled family activities, yet she sees them—perhaps subconsciously—akin to the empty spaces in her life, where others convinced her to follow a safe, traditional path rather than the “risky, dangerous” avant-garde profession of which she dreamed and was gifted to do. She wanted to fill those spaces, and if she couldn’t fill them post haste with her own dreams, she at least wanted to fill them with time for herself, even if it happened to be “up to her neck in fragrant froth” in the bathtub. Indeed, she “was beginning to enjoy her time off from Time.”
Yet, as the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry,” and that is how Sarah’s day continued. We watch as she deals with an incident that finally snaps her, and thereafter, we follow her to more serene and introspective moments.
Margaret Jean Langstaff has a writing style that keeps the reader’s attention, and the reader must reciprocate by paying close attention. There are well-written long sentences, like streams of consciousness. Humor pervades throughout the pages. I laughed at a scene where “a hush puppy whizzed across the table and hit [Sarah] on the nose.” The author made the scene even more powerful when “Sarah set aside her fork, dabbed her lips, folded her napkin, lay it down next to her plate and stood up.” We know by now something is afoot, something quite unexpected.
The author gives several characters perfect southern accents with questionable grammatical structures that you can fairly hear amplifying from the pages yet not think twice about. It’s natural. The letters that Sarah’s children write to her are convincingly children’s voices. To Sarah, Wesley, her husband, is a “cave man” and “gorilla,” yet he is likeable with an unforgettable regional voice, peppered with out-of-date words, particularly one.
Margaret Jean Langstaff writes lovely descriptive scenes, most particularly:
“Her mind went all loose and bubbly and took off on its own, unmoored and rudderless, and sailing here, there, everywhere, like a drunken butterfly floating through the warm moist air, darting off, alighting, tasting, returning, then fluttering off to something else.”
Sarah saw her life the same way: rudderless, darting off, fluttering off to something else, and she was looking for what she wanted, not what everyone else wanted. She wanted to be free, unrestricted as a horse running in the open plains.
“Twilight’s Indian Princess” is quirky, yet fun, and stimulates familiarity and reflection. Initially, I wasn’t sure of where the story was headed, but as I kept reading, I found some ways to identify with Sarah and the people around her.
I recommend “Twilight’s Indian Princess” for a fun, quick read. Indeed, you may find things in common with some, or all, of the characters.
You can find it HERE on Amazon.
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