I Be Emma

Fiction - Mystery - General
86 Pages
Reviewed on 05/11/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

I Be Emma is an enthralling literary novel by Charlotte Pritchard. It tells the story of Clara, a young girl isolated in the remote Tennessee backwaters with her alleged parents. Having no contact with the outside world, she experiences a life-changing event one afternoon when she meets a girl her own age while picking berries. Curious about the outside world, she persuades her father to take her along when he sells brooms in town. During this trip, Clara catches the attention of a woman. After this encounter, she starts having nightmares, and as events unfold, it is revealed that the couple who raised her are not her biological parents. Clara sets out, determined to find her real family. Can Clara uncover the truth and find her parents?

Charlotte Pritchard’s I Be Emma is a suspenseful story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I easily empathized with Clara, the main protagonist, who was ripped from her family at a young age and isolated by her supposed parents. Her character is well-developed, and her emotional turmoil is heart-wrenching. The plot is well-structured and the pacing is just right as Clara struggles with the discovery of the shocking truth about her birth. Pritchard's literary style is vividly descriptive, and one is immersed in the narrative. Ultimately, I Be Emma is a compelling story about a young woman who wants to reclaim her life. This one is for you if you want an engaging and moving read. Highly recommended!

Jennifer Ibiam

Clara lived in a remote village with her poor parents. She was isolated from the world and denied schooling by her mom, Mattie. Clara continued with her life until she followed her dad on a business trip to sell brooms in Tennessee’s neighboring towns. While there, she met a woman who couldn’t stop looking at her. Clara learned that the woman lost her daughter when she was a toddler. The meeting was the beginning of Clara’s nightmares, which left her confused. Clara realized the people she lived with weren’t her parents. Then Mattie let vital information slip during a fit of anger, clearing her doubts. Her parents were kidnappers, and she was only thirteen years old. How will she escape to find her parents? I Be Emma by Charlotte Pritchard has the details.

What does anyone do after discovering their entire life was a lie? I Be Emma by Charlotte Pritchard is a beautifully written book that I enjoyed reading. The storyline was refreshing, crisp, and suspenseful. I also loved the development and depth of the characters and the early 1900s setting. Ed’s character was thought-provoking because I felt he was a good but weak man. He didn’t mind indulging his wife, even if he knew that what she did was criminal. Was Mattie bold enough to do what Ed was too cowardly to do? I couldn't determine whether Mattie was selfish or mentally challenged. Ida and Jimmy were my least favorite characters. I loved Marissa and Clara for their strength, determination, and boldness, even at such tender ages. The end of this novel made my heart sing. Charlotte is a talented writer, and I want to read more of her works.

Jamie Michele

I Be Emma by Charlotte Pritchard is a middle-grade historical fiction mystery that revolves around a small girl growing up in the Tennessee woods during the 1920s, whose eventual flashes of memory run contrary to the life she is living. Emma, who is only three years old, is taken from her family. Seven years later, she is living as Clara with her Ma, who keeps her isolated. Clara meets Marissa and is determined to learn to read despite Ma's disapproval. A good girl who will be married at fifteen and grow up to take care of her parents doesn't need to read. The isolation of Clara's existence is broken when she finally rides into town with Pa, where a chance meeting manifests into flashbacks of her past. Soon after, she starts having dreams about a girl named Emma. Clara recalls her kidnapping by a woman who desperately wanted a child and as her entire life is tossed into confusion she wonders if she'll ever find her real family. This story is a captivating mystery about discovering true identity and family ties.

Charlotte Pritchard paints a picture of the unraveling of a life twisted by lies and the dichotomy of what family truly means. Clara, for all intents and purposes, is loved by Ma and Pa—Ed and Mattie—and she does love them as any child who loves their parents. As a reader, this is where we are faced with the conflict of Ma and Pa doing the unthinkable while still sympathetically viewing their suffering and Clara's relative happiness with them as her parents. Ma is not an affectionate woman but her emotional hardening is the result of a life in abject poverty and perpetual hardship, and there is a tragedy that rocks Ma and Clara and the loss transcends the page. I did feel that as Clara becomes aware of her actually being Emma, the pretty rapid change of her feelings toward Ma, who up until that point was the only maternal figure she knew, or at least remembered, is unrealistic. Clara is not a heartless child so her ability to switch from hot to cold feels contrived. Still, the bittersweet ending leaves some of the reunion to the imagination and while Ma's heartbreak is palpable, so too is the hope that Clara/Emma holds for her future. Recommended.

Asher Syed

In the heart of the Tennessee woods, Clara lives an isolated life with her parents. She doesn't question her unusual existence until a chance meeting with a mysterious woman leads to strange and terrifying nightmares. As Clara's doubts grow, a crucial revelation slips from a stranger's lips, unraveling the logic of her life. Clara realizes that her kidnappers are the people who raised her, and she is the missing girl Emma. With a newfound determination, she sets out to uncover the truth and find her real parents. But her journey is fraught with danger and obstacles, and Clara must summon all her courage to overcome them. I Be Emma by Charlotte Prichard is a fast-moving middle-grade tale that shows rural living in the 1920s and the strength of a child wanting to take back control of a life taken from her.

There are books about strings of unfortunate events and there are books like I Be Emma that demonstrate a parade of fortunate events, and with all of the muck that kids have been exposed to in the world lately, the shimmer of hope that Charlotte Pritchard has written is very welcome. Clara's life in seclusion with Ed, called Pa, and Mattie, called Ma, is warmly rendered. They are a crushingly poor family who dwell in illiteracy and are viewed by the town with disgust, but until we know what Ma and Pa did we are shown a picture of ignorant felicity. On Clara's first trip into town, she is immediately recognized by her eyes and one puzzle piece clicks into the next until she figures it out and makes a decision. I expected the book to be a plot-driven story and there is certainly a plot, but the Clara-Emma connection is all about the character arc. Clara/Emma's agency is primary. She is assertive and inquisitive, she is persistent and open to uncomfortable truths, and the kind of girl you want to root for. Overall, a unique and inspiring piece of children's historical fiction.

Trudi LoPreto

In I Be Emma by Charlotte Pritchard, Clara is a young girl living in the remote backwoods of Tennessee, never seeing anyone, not allowed to go to school and never allowed to stray far from home. Clara has no contact with people until she accidentally meets a young girl as she is out picking berries. Clara’s new friend begins to teach her to read and raises her curiosity as to what is out there. Clara’s father makes brooms and is often on the road selling them. When Clara begs to be taken along, her mother very reluctantly agrees. Father and daughter travel far from home and Clara meets a woman at one of the stops who tells her about her daughter that has been missing for years and how she has never stopped looking for her. Clara is emotionally moved by this story and it haunts her thoughts and dreams. I guess you are wondering what Emma and Clara have in common. I will not spoil that for you, but you must read I Be Emma to get the answers.

This novella has a storyline that is common but is being told in a new and inspiring way. I Be Emma is short but it will pull you in and keep you reading until the very last page. Charlotte Pritchard is a very talented author and has made Clara come alive so that we readers are able to feel all of the sadness, joy, confusion, and happiness that Clara feels. I Be Emma will tweak your emotions and make it really hard to put down the book. The introduction of Emma only helped to make the story more real and more heartfelt. I urge you to read I Be Emma because you will not be disappointed. This is a sure winner.