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Reviewed by Paul F. Murray for Readers' Favorite
Milcreek Pond by Kay Carroll is a true-to-life story about fourteen-year-old Molly, an African-American/Native American girl in 1879 Mississippi who refuses to “stay in her place”. Molly’s mother, Enola, worries constantly that her daughter is headed for trouble if she continues to want more out of life than is deemed proper for a non-white person in the post-Reconstruction South. Molly dreams of the magic night coming up, the Autumn Festival, which will be, as it were, her “debut”. Molly works for Walter Neuman and his wife Lena, both of them non-Southerners originally. Although Walter is neutral—so it seems—in his feelings toward Molly and Enola, Lena Neuman is openly hostile toward them, especially Molly, whom she hopes to rid herself of. Lena Neuman wants to put Molly, her brother Jake, and Enola out on the street to fend for themselves if they can, so that Lena’s aunt can move into the sharecropper cabin currently occupied by Molly and her family. However, Aunt Minnie from Boston turns out to be a very different person than Lena was expecting. Aunt Minnie takes a liking to Molly and may—if Southern society will allow it—become a possible means of advancement for Molly.
I enjoyed Milcreek Pond by Kay Carroll because it was educational, as well as entertaining, to read about what life was truly like in the late-19th century South for non-whites who were, in essence, in a sort of bondage without visible chains. There were absolute limits to what society would allow non-whites to do, and get away with. Readers may actually experience some annoyance at the ridiculous (to us) limits to which Molly and her family are subjected. Milcreek Pond provides perspective to readers who may not otherwise experience it. An educational novel with a prospective relevance for our current times.