Five Days in May starts with the end: the “Big Ugly”, a massive tornado that strikes the town of Graham, Oklahoma, in May 1963. It then goes back five days to show in detail the lives of the townspeople—and it’s typical of tornados that there is no warning. The reader knows what’s coming, but the characters are tied up in their everyday lives.
There are four main characters: Princess (Emily Prentice), who is due to be executed in five days for murdering her baby sister; Mac, the widowed preacher who’s lost his faith in God; Jonas, Mac’s father-in-law, who is caring for a wife with “old-timers” disease; and Joy, Mac’s teenage daughter, who has her own set of problems. There are also some fascinating yet disturbing minor characters, including Wanda and Jackson.
The characters are excellent, especially Princess, who has a distinct and engaging voice, and who “sees” things in a way that’s a cross between the movies Green Mile and Being John Malkovich. Joy is a typical teenager, so tied up in her own problems that she can’t see the wood for the trees. Mac is the typical father of a teenage daughter, in that he can’t relate to her and can barely hold a conversation with her (I could relate—Mac’s relationship with Joy had a lot of similarities to the relationship between my husband and my daughter).
The plot was complex, a tangled web of relationships. While I did guess one of the major plot points before it was revealed, that only added to the tension. Was I right? What would the characters think and say when they found out? I was right, but the reaction of one character in particular surprised me. Another behaved exactly true to character … but justice was served in the end, albeit not in the tidy way I perhaps expected.
There are ‘rules’ of writing which say authors should limit the number of viewpoint characters, and shouldn’t use omniscient point of view. Hammon ‘broke’ both rules in Five Days in May, yet in such a way that it didn’t detract from the story at all. Rather, it added considerably to the tension (especially given how unhinged some of these characters were …)
While Five Days in May isn’t specifically Christian fiction, there are strong Christian themes of love and sacrifice underpinning a story that is, quite simply, brilliant in both concept and execution. Recommended.
Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Ninie Hammon at her website, or check out our interview. And here's the book trailer: