Some things were meant to fly, and others were bound by their roots.
This, I knew, I'd learned from my mother.
-from The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Therese Walsh's novel, The Moon Sisters, chronicles the experience of Jazz and Olivia Moon after the untimely death of their mother, Beth. Both sisters are as different as night and day: Jazz is serious and resolute at living a life free from the flimsy emotions that have framed her childhood with her dreamer mother. Conversely, Olivia is creative, emotional, hopeful and best friends with their mother. Olivia also has synethesia which means her senses involuntarily emanate themselves through other senses; for example, she sees letters and numbers as specific colors and certain smells and movements generate a specific image (i.e. her mother smells like the sun, her grandmother sounds like the movement of flour). When their mother dies of what appears to be suicide, Olivia insists it was not suicide and leaves for a journey to a bog their mother dreamed of visiting to see a ghost light. Level-headed Jazz thinks her sister is crazy, but, as always, she is guilted into being the good sister and begrudgingly accompanies Olivia on the journey. Along the way they meet some interesting characters that each sister judges differently, adding to the explication of their individualism. Paralleling the clash of the Moon sisters are letters their mother wrote to her estranged father. Through these letters readers gain a sense of who Beth was and why she was the kind of mother she was to her very different daughters.
This book was pretty difficult for me to read. It's not because of the writing style or necessarily the storyline; Walsh's prose is strong and contains a lot of beautiful imagery and metaphors that construct a fluid tale of identity within family, love, loss and grief. This story was difficult because I identified so strongly with the sibling rivalry and familial resentment that I couldn't read for very long without being hit by the story emotionally. So really, the difficulty I found reading means that it's a wonderful book because it's able to draw such a strong reaction from me. I identified very strongly with Jazz, even if I don't act out as abrasively as she does. This gave me a somewhat biased opinion of Olivia and Beth, so review reader beware! ;)
The Moon Sisters switches between first-person narrative perspectives of Jazz and Olivia, occasionally integrating a letter from Beth to her estranged father. The book is also structured to cover the five stages of grief which I found to be a really interesting way to tell a story. Throughout the book we can identify how Jazz and Olivia experience and cope with Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance in their unique ways. Similarly, through Beth's letters we can explore how Beth grieved over her lost relationship with her father. I really thought this was a powerful way to tell this story. It connected how different the characters in this novel are while maintaining their similar struggles.
What I didn't care for (besides, in true Jazz form, being crazy annoyed by Olivia!) was that sometimes the memories Jazz and Olivia had really slowed down the pacing of the story at the beginning and I struggled to keep reading at many of these points. I know that they are necessary because this story is more character-driven than plot-driven, but it's just something I struggle with as a reader. However, as the story progressed, I did appreciate the memories much more. Also, being from California, I had no idea what a will-o'-the-wisp was and couldn't identify with some of the West Virginian culture, which is deeply ingrained into the text. I suppose that's just a part of immersing yourself into new books about different places, but a little more information on these "ghost lights" would have been helpful.
Overall this is a great book about identity within family and moving forward after a great loss. More importantly, it's about accepting people for who they are and where they are in their walk of life. Even though it was difficult for me to read because I identified with it almost too much, it was worth the effort and the ending, which really surprised me (and even surprised me that it surprised me haha!)! Will Jazz and Olivia ever get along? Will they get to the bog? Will they find a will-o'-the-wisp? You'll just have to read it to find out!
Bottom Line: Great for anyone who loves a sister story about familial love, loss and the struggle to move forward. 4/5 hearts
For more stops on this tour:
Monday, March 3rd: Lit and Life
Tuesday, March 4th: Beth Fish Reads
Tuesday, March 4th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, March 5th: Book-a-licious Mama
Thursday, March 6th: girlichef
Friday, March 7th: Books in the Burbs
Monday, March 10th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, March 11th: Traveling with T
Wednesday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, March 13th: Book Snob
Friday, March 14th: The Book Barn
Tuesday, March 18th: Fiction Addict
Tuesday, March 18th: 5 Minutes for Moms
Wednesday, March 19th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, March 20th: Bibliotica
Monday, March 24th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Wednesday, March 26th: A Novel Review
Thursday, March 27th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, April 1st: Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, April 2nd: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, April 8th: Books a la Mode