Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

(7.0/10)

Young Keturah loses her way in the forest and nearly dies of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion. Death comes to her in the form of a handsome man. Unwilling to die young or exchange anyone’s life for her own, Keturah wins the sympathy of Lord Death, who grants her only a few days to find true love and win back her life - or else go with him to be his queen.

I read this book on the recommendation of people who "really loved" it, and when I finished it I was unsure whether I liked it or not. It was interesting and engaging, even archetypal, but also a little under-baked. I feel that most of the supporting characters had more personality than the two leads. Death especially was an intriguing figure, but his character was so vaguely sketched I had trouble seeing him as both a force of nature and a lovelorn man longing for companionship. Keturah was sometimes too perfect and at other times too lackadaisical, wasting time doing chores when she was given a brief reprieve from death to find her true love. She certainly took her freedom lightly. Aside from her beauty and her supposed courage, I didn't know why Death (an eternal, immortal being who has surely seen many women come and go) should want her for his queen. Chronology was sometimes a problem, as it seemed that too much was going on in one day's time.

Author Martine Leavitt says this book is her way of walking the walk with her deceased 11-year-old sister, and I see elements of that cathartic release in here. The story can definitely be read as an allegory of a young person dying before her time, and how estranged she might feel from the people around her. But Keturah has it better than most of us. In just a few days she manages to win the hearts of three potential suitors, help her friends find their own true loves, miraculously save people from death, and turn her entire village around from backwater slum to rustic paradise, complete with royal visit.

In short, she changes her world in a big way. Isn't obscurity after all one of the biggest disappointments most people face when struggling with death? Wouldn't we all go to our death with happiness if we knew we'd helped our friends and family, changed the world, and impacted our community so strongly that people tell stories about us for many years afterward? Is it really possible to do all of this in just a few days? A pretty fable it was, but too neat and not entirely realistic, and for me the easy promise of "you will never be forgotten" rang just a little hollow.

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