Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
~ Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones
Did she or didn't she? Did Beth Moon kill herself, or was it an accident? This is one of the questions posed in a new novel set in the fictitious tiny town of Tramp, West Virginia, The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, published last month. After Beth's death, the family is grief-stricken. Her husband, Branik, turns to alcohol, while the Moon sisters, Olivia and Jazz, struggle with their feelings about her death. Olivia, the younger Moon sister, is a synesthete. She wants to believe that her mother's death was an accident, and to bring her mother's ashes to a cranberry bog. She decides to go on the trip that her mother had wanted to take but never did, to a cranberry bog to see the ghost lights that may have inspired Mama to finish her book, A Foolish Fire. Jazz, the older and more practical sister, wants mostly to start her new job, which would give her life a new routine. But Jazz has always helped look after her sister, so against her better judgment, she follows Olivia, who has joined a tattooed guy called Hobbs and other train-hoppers, on a journey to the cranberry bog.
Bad book blogger! I've just read an uncorrected proof of The Moon Sisters, so I'm not supposed to quote from the book, but I'm including quotations from the book anyway, because this will give you examples of Therese Walsh's writing style and a taste of the book. I've also taken the liberty of photographing a bit from the inside of the book. (Please keep in mind that the final version of the book may be different.)
Many quotations from writers (and others) are sprinkled throughout the book. One of my favorites, right at the beginning is:
"Action is the antidote to despair."
~ Joan Baez
The first section in The Moon Sisters is called Ground Zero, The End of the Beginning, and it's written in the first person (as is the whole book), from Olivia's point of view. After an ordinary Saturday morning in February, Olivia discovers that her mother is dead, in the kitchen.
"I was the one who found her later--not moving, not breathing, dead with her head on the kitchen table. The gas on and the pilot light out, the windows and doors closed, sealing the room as tight as the envelope sitting beside her."
~ The Moon Sisters, Therese Walsh
Chapter One, The Foolish Fire of Olivia Moon, is written from Jazz's point of view. Here, Jazz talks about Olivia's synesthesia and her sister's plan to go to the bog:
"My sister began staring at the sun after our mother died, because she swore it smelled like her. For me, it would always be the scent of oven gas, since that's how Mama went--fumes pouring out, her breathing them in. Like Sylvia Plath, my father said, because Mama was a tortured writer, too."
"My sister's reality had always been bizarre, though, with her ability to taste words and see sounds and smell a person on the sun. So when she decided to toss our dead mother's ashes into a suitcase and go off to the setting of our dead mother's story to find a ghost light, I wasn't all that surprised. She's never been the poster child for sense."
~ The Moon Sisters, Therese Walsh
Mama was not just a tortured writer. She was estranged from her father, and very distraught over this. She wrote letters to him about her life, asking for forgiveness, which are part of the novel, and which give Beth a voice as well in the book; we can understand her deep turmoil. She was emotionally crippled by this alienation from her father, who she loved.
Reading The Moon Sisters made me think about the nature of hope, the audacity of hope. In the book, Mama had dreams to finish writing her book. She hoped that she would be reunited with her father. And the Moon sisters--especially Olivia-- hope to help and understand their mother and her dream to succeed as a writer by making the trip to the cranberry bog.
It is perhaps boring and unsophisticated to simply state that I loved this book. But I did! I relished every single page. It's a beautifully written book. The characters are unique and compelling, especially, of course, the sister protagonists, Olivia and Jazz, and Hobbs, as well as Mama, Babka (Grandma Moon), Branik, J.D., Red Grass, and others, who also come to life. Reading about Olivia's synesthesia was fascinating; of course, I wished I could experience a bit of that myself (I think most readers will). This book makes you feel, makes you feel a great deal. I was often teary-eyed while reading it. It resonated with me in several ways, including that both of my parents had aspirations to have their books published (that might be a story for another day). But what I loved most of all about this novel is that it took me on an uncharted, emotional adventure alongside the Moon sisters, one that I'll think about and remember for a very long time.
Thanks to Crown Publishers, I have an extra copy of The Moon Sisters to give away to a reader (U.S. only).
- To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
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Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 14. One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 15.
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me an advance copy of this spellbinding novel by Therese Walsh, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Writer Unboxed. For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for The Moon Sisters.