Signs of Martha by Sarah Raymond is the story of Martha — a young girl who feels like her town is too small for her and her ideals and after getting involved with a 'real' artiste who recently came to her town, her mild discontent starts to morph into genuine feelings of displacement and superiority.
This book has left me feeling rather neutral. There were parts and pieces of the story that I did like, and parts that I did not.
My biggest complaint with the story is probably the writing. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the writing, it just didn't connect with me, didn't hit me the way the books that land on my favorites shelf do. If the writing is really engaging or really gripping, there are a lot of things I will overlook about a book. But with Signs of Martha, I never forgot I was reading, never felt a huge connection to any of the characters and didn't get terribly invested.
Part of this, is because I didn't feel like the town was really characterized the way it needed to be. The way this story is written, the town is a huge part of what makes Martha who she is. She feels like she doesn't belong where she lives (something I can fully relate to), she feels like the town is too small to understand her or really allow her to grow as an artist. But, the pieces of the town that really make Martha feel so stifled are never really given the face time or depth they needed to really form, for the reader to fully understand why Martha might find her town to be painful and limiting. We don't catch glimpses of this until the end, when the signs the back of the book allude to expose them. But at that point, it's too late. I don't care as much about what the signs are saying, exposing, causing, because it hasn't been developed. (and honestly, the 'fallout' after the signs are seen is seriously anti-climactic)
But, while there was some disconnect there for me throughout the story, I did like the book overall. Martha in particular was written well (which is good, since she is the main character...) . There is a lot that Martha faces that I can relate to. While I do like the town I live in, it's not the place for me. There are some people who will be happy in their hometowns for the rest of their lives. One of my good friends is one of those people. But I'm not. I get where Martha is coming from when she thinks that she will never reach her full potential staying in that town. I get it. I've been there. I am there. I could be content where I am for the rest of my life, but don't know that I would be truly happy. And that's what Martha is feeling, what she is facing. She has two paths she can take, and both would turn out fine. She might even be happy in each. But there is one path that would always have a niggling amount of discontent, of dissatisfaction at the back of her mind and she knows this.
Martha wants so desperately to find herself through her art, to find acceptance through this new artiste, Velvet, that she is basically willing to sell a piece of herself to get that approval. I'm not talking anything hinky or sexual, but Martha exchanges a part of who she is that makes her honest and good to find her in with this new girl, and she's so desperate for the guidance from Velvet that she slowly loses pieces of herself and doesn't really realize they are gone until she starts to understand what she has done to other people, people that have really never done her wrong.
Martha also learns a lot in this book, a lot about herself, a lot about others and a lot about honesty and integrity. It's definitely worth reading, especially if the premise initially interested you and overall, I'd say that the positive things about the book do outweight the negative. It shows potential and it would be interested to see what Raymond comes out with next because I'd love to see her writing grow.
Now — the Giveaway!
I'm giving away my review copy! Open to any/everyone. Just leave me a comment that shows me you either read my review (above...) or you read the Author This or That, which went up on the blog yesterday (and I linked it.)
If your comment just says — Thanks for the giveaway (or something similar) — and nothing else — I will just delete it.
Please also make sure I have a way to contact you — Either leave you email or Twitter name IN the comment, or make sure your comment profile has an emailed attached to it!
Giveaway IS International. Will close Friday, September 30.