Written by Libby Ware
To be published on October 20, 2015 by She Writes Press
Lum has always been on the outside. At eight, she was diagnosed with what we now call an intersex condition and is told, she can’t expect to marry. Now, at thirty-three, she has no home of her own but is shuttled from one relative’s house to another – valued for her skills, but never treated like a true member of the family. Everything is turned upside down, however, when the Blue Ridge Parkway is slated to come through her family’s farmland. As people take sides in the fight, the community begins to tear apart – culminating in an act of violence and subsequent betrayal by opponents of the new road. However, the Parkway brings opportunities as well as loss.
Lum is a very thoughtful and provocative book about an unmarried woman dealing issues that are still relevant today. However, back in the 1930s, those “issues” will ostracize you from friends, family and your community. Further, Lum tells the story of a woman completely dependent who longs for a worthy and independent life. Plus, she is dealing with who she is.
The main emotion of this book is frustration. It seems character is feeling frustrated with their lot in life which is very appropriate for that time. Lum’s frustration, of course, rises above the rest. It was common during that time for unmarried women to remain with their families and be considered a “burden.” Lum is basically unpaid laborer for her family. She is at the very bottom of her family hierarchy even though she is hardworking and bright. In the end, it was Lum’s frustration that was able to free her.
Another emotion I felt was sadness. There was a prevailing layer of sadness throughout the book. Every time Lum played with her postcards of carnival performers (refuse to call them freaks), I felt a pang of sadness for her. Those postcards portrayed her only friends and their stories she created – her only escape. She seemed to be young and child-like when she played with her cards and not the grown woman she should be.
Finally, I felt strength. Lum’s evolution was amazing to see. Her strength to stand by people she respected no matter what they looked like was admirable and put her above others in her community. Her friendship with Mr. Shay, also, helped her evolve. He was such a surprise and made her life more her own and not her family’s. He let her me herself no matter what that meant. To me his character was a pure joy.
Lum is a wonderful story full of frustration, sadness and strength. It is a story that you will not be able to put down and you will be left wondering “what is Lum doing now?”