It's 1900, and May Amelia lives on a farm in Nasel, Washington with her Pappa, her Mama, and her seven older brothers. Everyone in the area, including May Amelia's family, is Finnish-American, and everyone that lives in Nasel has to have a whole lot of sisu--that's Finn for guts--because Nasel is a hard, hard place to live. Harder when your father wishes you were a boy, because you can't cook and girls aren't really good for anything else. Then a man comes around, promising to develop the town, to make anyone who invests into millionaires, and May Amelia is the one who translates his offer to her father. And finally, May Amelia's father is looking at her with something other than disdain. But things are never what they seem, and life in Nasel is never easy, never going to be easy.
So, the lack of quotation marks, the 1st-person dialogue pov, threw me at first. I really, really like quotation marks. But May Amelia is easy to love, with her plucky, stubborn, never-say-die attitude and her rough and tumble way of life. There are some great secondary characters, some who you want to smack around a little bit, but ultimately, it's not hard to understand any of them. Life is hard, and everyone seems to do what they can to help their family and neighbors, but when things are harder than they have to be, everyone looks for someone to blame. May Amelia's father broke my heart constantly; he lavished affection on his niece without caring how it affected his daughter who he never so much as smiled at, he insulted May Amelia at every turn, and finally, the worst crime of all, he completely refused to accept responsibility for his own actions and then blamed his teenage daughter for their misfortune. Ultimately, there is a reunification and an apology, and love shared between he and May Amelia, and she accepts it gladly, gratefully, because she's been waiting for him to show her love for her entire life. But I can't forgive him.
There are a whole bunch of characters I loved though, from Miss Mariah the tavern owner and procurer of body parts to Mr. Clayton and Miss McEwing, and Charles who hates school and refuses to learn English. There's a lot to love in Nasel, and there's a lot to learn.