May had a stroke. The ambulance people inform her that they only got to her after two days, but she’s sure that can’t be right. There’s also the small problem of not being able to speak – every word May attempts comes out as a pitiful dribble of spit. On top of that, her body won’t listen to her anymore; her muscles have a mind of their own, and it’s all about rebellion. She is trapped, a prisoner inside a half-functioning frame that limits her every action. The only option left for May is to retreat into her mind, and into the past.
May spends a great deal of her time recalling her life – wondering what she could have done differently, how she could have been better. As if the restrictions on her body were not punishment enough, she’s taken to beating herself up mentally, too.
However, a new purpose presents itself with the budding relationship between her friend, Jackie, and an eerily familiar and somewhat sinister man by the name of Bill, who reminds May a little too much of her abusive ex-husband. Determined to warn Jackie and prevent another relationship defined by abuse, May needs to get her body and her mouth to agree on a single purpose; to stop the past repeating itself.
Hello, my Name is May is a decidedly uncomfortable read. Not because it is badly written or boring; on the contrary, it is a witty, sharp, and consuming narrative. No, this book causes discomfort because of the harsh realities it brings to light. From abusive relationships, psychological issues, neglect of the elderly, and a dark realization that some things cannot be controlled, Stopps highlights all the aspects of society which we generally try to avoid, in a single, glitzy expose. One can’t help but feel claustrophobic and useless and we experience May’s helplessness, and the reactions of those around her to any efforts to communicate. If Rosalind Stopps’ intention was to scare the reader, she’s hit the mark.
The contrast between this well-written and incredibly clever story and its dark subject matter is an unusual experience; the reader sways between the same emotions experienced by our protagonist - anger, sadness, frustration. This book is incredibly emotive and incredibly moving. Added to a unique story line, are several unexpected twists and a few shockers that will literally have you gasping out loud.
Rosalind Stopps has done a masterful job of highlighting the plights of various aspects of society – from the oppressed to the elderly – in a stark reminder to be thankful for what you have, and to live your life to the fullest. May is a figurehead of regret, and of things left unsaid and undone. After reading this book, you’ll want to do everything in your power to make sure you don’t end up like her.
Hello, my Name is May is like a YA novel for the elderly – is there a cute acronym for such a genre yet? Regardless, add this to the list of books you need to read soon; it’s eye-opening and a buffet for thought.
Hello, my Name is May by Rosalind Stopps is published by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.