Saturday, December 24, 2011
The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen)
The story moves quickly, and in Ms Allen's style, is filled with elements that make it into a quirky and comfortable read. When teenage Emily Benedict's mother passes away, she is sent to live with her grandfather in Mullaby, NC. But Emily is surprised that her activist mother had another life when she was in Mullaby, and her departure from the town is shrouded by a secret that no one seems to be quite eager to tell Emily. People here look at her differently because of her mother's past. Still, Emily is not without allies. She befriends her next door neighbor Julia Winterson, who bakes with longing, and the mysterious Win Coffey.
If you are a first-time reader of the author's work, this isn't a bad place to start, although I would recommend The Sugar Queen instead. I thought that there were some parts here that felt clunky to me, like the not-quite-explained attraction between Julia and Sawyer (though the Lost fan in me irrationally rejoiced upon seeing their names together), the secret behind the Mullaby Lights, and Dulcie's part in the whole thing. I thought that there wasn't enough evidence to support these three things. But Ms Allen's are not often about rationality as they are about magic, faith, and hope. There are a lot of those magical elements in this book -- bigger, in my opinion, than the ones in Garden Spells or The Sugar Queen. And what I liked about the book were certainly more than enough to overpower those that I didn't. One of the best things about this is Emily's character and the way she approaches her unusual situation. She conducts herself with a commendable amount of dignity and bravery, and there were really moments here when she defends her mother that I think is handled with much sensitivity and insight.
Time will tell if The Girl Who Chased the Moon will become my favorite of Ms Allen's work. Despite its flaws, something in this book really resonates with me. It speaks of loss and belonging, of misplaced grievances and faith restored, and of course, family. For me, it is always a joy to read something that unabashedly appeals to that part of us that remains childlike and hopeful, especially during the holidays.
It's Christmas Eve as I write this. Merry Christmas to you and yours!