Maybelleen

Kathleen Wallace King, Author Henry Holt & Company $20 (225p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3600-8
King's second novel (after The True Life Story of Isobel Roundtree) focuses on the lives of two women--one long dead, the other alive but suicidal. Maybelleen was a famous turn-of-the-century outlaw, the last woman to be hanged in Texas. Margaret, who believes she is Maybelleen's grand-niece, is a depressed divorcee who, 60 years later, unable to continue living but unsure why she is beset by intense unhappiness, becomes convinced that the solution to her problems can be found in Maybelleen's life. King tells each woman's story in alternating chapters. Maybelleen is shown escaping the limited life of a spinster schoolteacher in rural Kentucky and transforming herself into a lusty and dangerous outlaw partnered to Mexican Bill and committed to his scheme of building a homeland for the American Indians. Margaret, recovering from a suicide attempt, tries to understand the message she thinks Maybelleen may be sending her. Maybelleen's story is vivid, but it also is less believable; beside the larger-than-life Maybelleen, Margaret seems a shadowy thing. King, however, writes in a simple, direct, unsentimental style that well suits her subject, marking this novel as likely just a sophomore slump in the career of a talented author with a special feel for life's outcasts. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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