Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley's World - Jeffrey Marshall

Summary: Little Miss Sure Shot is a fictionalized account of the life of Annie Oakley, drawing heavily on the real timelines and events of her life. However, the book is not a biography - it invents situations, people she meets, and a myriad of conversations. Moreover, while the book is presented chronologically, apart from the prologue, it skips certain periods and attempts to focus on those that are especially vital, such as the early years Annie spent with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, including the tours through Europe. A special feature of the novel is the framing of Annie's loving marriage to fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler, whom she married at sixteen and remained married to for 50 years until her death. Frank was far more than just her husband - he was her manager (he gave up his own shooting for that role) and her constant companion. The novel closes with an epilogue in Frank's voice, presenting an overview of their lives together and the circumstances of her death in 1926. (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review:  Annie Oakley embodies the self-made woman in America.  Born in poverty, she turned to shooting to keep her mother and sisters alive after the death of her father.  She recognized straight off that while her skills were formidable, they were a blessing for her family.  It didn't take long before she was shooting competitively, a move that changed her life, the lives of her family, and the face of America forever.

This is Jeffrey Marshall's first novel, and I don't even know if it could be classified as a true novel.  I've actually tried to find a term to more accurately classify this book, and it's about 90% biography with some fictionalized dialog.  The closest I could come was biographical fiction. Don't get me wrong, this is a quick, fun, easy book to read.  I may be biased because of the subject matter -- I was Annie Oakley for multiple Halloweens as a youth.  But this is a book I could easily and happily turn over to my children if they needed a biography.  

Marshall's research is well done.  There were many scenarios he expounded upon, and some I wish he'd further explored.  While I appreciated the thought that went into this book, I was personally confused by whether this was supposed to be a biography or a novel.  Hence my obsession with properly classifying the book!  That confusion aside, I appreciate that this book is simply written, making this an ideal book for a more reluctant reader or a younger reader with a higher reading level.  

Rating: 3.75 stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Annie Oakley fiercely protected her reputation as a chaste, proper maiden of the Midwest.  While she married young, she makes for a squeaky clean biography!

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