I am currently in the middle of reading a number of fantasy works and I thought I'd take a break by picking up something lighter. The premise of Dorothy Garlock's The Moon Looked Down doesn't sound that it should qualify for light reading though. In this story set in World War II, Sophie Heller and her family are struggling with anti-German threats and prejudices. But because her father does not want to report it to the authorities, Sophie feels trapped, and looks to her new friend Cole Ambrose for support. Okay, I must admit that it was mainly because Cole was a teacher that I was encouraged to pick up this romance, and I knew that despite the heavy topic, it might be the distraction I needed.
It distracted me enough for an hour or so. The Moon Looked Down was a very quick read mostly because I didn't feel that the author explored what could be very powerful themes quite as thoroughly as I had expected. The prejudice comes from two scum-of-the-earth type villains, even though the rest of their town Victory (told you it had a WWII setting) loves the Hellers and would defend them when push came to shove. This made me seriously question Hermann Heller's decision not to report the attack made on his family to the police. Sophie quickly and correctly identifies the villains, so the pervading anti-German sentiment that could have been handled in a realistic manner and be very debilitating for Sophie's family appeared to me as a weak caricature. Also, Sophie goes along with her father's wishes not to go to the authorities when their barn is burned down but in just a few chapters, she publicly confronts their attackers. Way to call attention to the matter, Sophie. It was a wonder how anyone didn't manage to suss out what had happened, especially since they live in a small town.
Ms Garlock also had an unfortunate way of letting her characters recount the same mundane things that happened to another character. Sophie going to the Ambrose hardware store is seen through her perspective and Mr Ambrose's; her ordering a meal from Marge's Diner is mentioned first from Cole's point of view and then her own. I found that the prose suffered greatly because of this, stumbling over such simple things like a bootlegged CD.
If there was anything that completely saved the experience for me, it was how Ms Garlock infused the novel with World War II elements. The language and terms used, as well as different visual elements, convincingly transported me to the proper time and setting. While it wasn't quite enough to augment the paper-thin characters, it created a solid world in which they could interact. I also cautiously liked Cole's clubfooted predicament because it painted a different kind of romantic lead, but even then I felt that any characterization only scratched the surface. If you don't mind Hallmark Channel TV movies and are looking for a distraction (as I was), then The Moon Looked Down will serve its purpose.