Nobody’s Secret, by Michaela MacColl (book review) – Emily Dickinson, death, and a mystery

book cover of Nobodys Secret by Michaela MacColl published by Chroncicle BooksSmall-town secrets, small-town minds,
Can’t be bothered  too much about a dead stranger,
But young Emily can’t forget meeting him… Mr. Nobody.

Yes, teenaged Emily Dickinson can’t ignore the obvious clues left at Mr. Nobody’s purported death scene, even when warned away by her fastidious mother and local law officials.

A mystery threaded through with first drafts of her poems, from those earlier days when she would venture out of her house alone – and perhaps a mystery that solves the mystery of why her older self kept so much to herself.

Do you like novels which “star” real people?

Book info: Nobody’s Secret / Michaela MacColl. Chronicle Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My book talk: When Emily meets a young man who charmingly declines to tell her his name, she’s intrigued. When he’s found dead in her family’s pond, she’s aghast. When she decides to discover who he is and why he died, she’s in danger from more than just society’s disapproval.

Of course, she knows that Mama wants her to stay indoors with sister Vinnie, doing their chores while not in school. But the meadows and clouds call to Emily’s poetic soul, which is why the young man from elsewhere finds her out among the flowers. As they don’t properly exchange names, they call one another “Nobody” with laughter. A chance meeting in town shows Mr. Nobody less than cheerful about family business which brought him to the law office of Emily’s father in Amherst.

Imagine the shock of finding him drowned in the Dickinson family pond later! But he’s clad in rough workman’s wear instead of the city clothes Emily remembered, and no one in town knows his name, so his body is being kept in the church basement until he can be identified.

Emily takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery surrounding him so that the young man may at least be buried under his own name. But Amherst is a small town, and everyone knows what everyone else is doing, so it may be more difficult than she first thought.

Why did Mr. Nobody say he’d leave as soon as he cleared up this family business?
If he has family nearby, why haven’t they claimed his body?
Why don’t the stories that Emily uncovers add up to the truth?

As the fifteen-year-old tries to understand what happened to the young man she wanted to know better, she jots down impressions which become the unique poetry seen later by the larger world, as Mr. Nobody predicted, in this original and clever mystery featuring Emily Dickinson.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.

One thought on “Nobody’s Secret, by Michaela MacColl (book review) – Emily Dickinson, death, and a mystery

  1. Pingback: A is for Alcott, in The Revelation of Louisa May, by Michaela MacColl (book review) | BooksYALove

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