A Melody in Minor Keys
Yes, Consider the Sunflowers is like a melody in minor keys. It is a melody that rises above the quietness of the prairie about the souls and simple lives of the ordinary people in and ordinary landscape with destinies that are all but ordinary. The story of Consider the Sunflower had grown thin and tall lake a white birch.
I like to see and talk about a written story like about a living entity with all the attributes that life comes with. What’s happening to it after the author leaves it with the reader must look like a life cycle in the context of a forest that is about to grow after the reader sets it aside and continue minding his daily business or go to the desk and grow his own trees and so on. A story, every good story in itself must leave behind it a legacy of thought and emotion that will ultimately bare fruits. According to these criteria, Consider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer passes the test and I solemnly declare it alive!
I read it enthusiastically, I read it quickly. This is not to say that I viewed it as pure entertainment but rather like a mind and heart capturing story. Of course, as a writer and poet I would probably structure it differently but, again, that’s the beauty of a well written novel: it multiplies in the mind and heart of the reader. I would envision my story rather like a rich leafy and shadowy linden tree with flowers coming to blossom in June, with multitudes of birds singing and bees collecting the nectar and the sadness of leafs coming down in the fall. But that would be my story, a story of a guy familiar not with the prairie but rather with a mountainous landscape with springs and creeks, with green meadows and the charm of nightingales.
Most of the reviews that I read on Consider the Sunflowers gravitate around love, marriage and the challenges of life. And, yes, there is plenty of meat to satisfy the interest of many who prefer this kind of ingredients of a story. I like them too but with so many novels written around these themes many of the stories become more like variations of the same. What sets this story apart? Let’s see!
The plot has a straight line shape that grows in colour and intensity. The author proves that the plot is not all that there is but rather it gives debt and nuances to the characters and to the larger context of the community. Not necessarily what characters say in the dialogs is what defines them but rather how they respond to the basic challenges of life. Sometimes through the process of reading I felt like being immersed a beautiful breeze of sound, a melody in minor tunes. The drama is more like something we all go through in our everyday life but Elma’s characters’ response is unique. A rather acrimonious co-existence of Roland and Frank within the same community evolves in a rare fruit of mutual acceptance. Frank and Victor outgrow their mutual disregard for each other, Frank, the half gipsy and, half Christian young man is ultimately accepted in a community with strong prejudices and strict moral dogmas.
Tina is a center pillar of the whole structure. She is a victim of loneliness in a place that was, according to her dreams, meant to be a paradise. She is a living example of what destructive power loneliness can unleash on a human soul. There, in the realm of loneliness, the time seems to be painfully slow and the mind excruciatingly hasty in building an almost alternate reality so much so that even the absolutes are being questioned and moral boundaries blur up to become a heavy fog of uncertainty.
The author leaves plenty open doors or just slightly cracked throughout the story. I can foresee a whole series of follow up novels like: “Consider the Laughter” with Dorrie and Roland devouring life with an astronomical hunger, “Consider Coming Home” with Frank’s surrender to the Almighty and his ultimate new birth, “Consider the Colours” with Tina surrendering to the beauty of the prairie and her artistic inclinations past on Klara or Morgan, etc.
There is also a door just slightly ajar towards the beauty of concurring fears and prejudices, towards growing trough the spirit of wisdom and revelation, towards finally seeing the big picture that God kept displaying before our eyes for ages. Maybe there is also a door towards a novel addressing a conflict between the old and the young…
Elma Schemenauer proves to be a resourceful story teller and Consider the Sunflower is just one piece of a puzzle that she is called to put together.
A Melody in Minor Keys