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Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review Friday: The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel

So as part of my blog revamp (or vamp, since I never really had much to start with) I’m going to have some new features. The first is “Book Review Fridays” . . . hopefully I’ll have a book each week to review here. Here’s the first: The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel (9780553385595): Sarah Addison Allen: Books

I’m a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s books. I loved “Garden Spells” and “The Sugar Queen.” I love how she brings her characters and their stories to life, and how the small North Carolina towns where the stories are set are characters as much as the people are. She’s a master of magical realism, making you believe that these amazing things –books appearing right when you need them, friendly ghosts in the closet – are totally normal.
So I wanted to love “The Girl Who Chased the Moon.” I really did. I bought the book a little over a year ago, and then I got a Kindle and was so enthralled with my new toy that I forgot about all the unread books in the pile next to my bed. But I just finished reading this epic 500-something page book for my book club, and wanted something a little lighter. And like the mysterious happenings in one of her fictional towns, this book just spoke to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it.
“The Girl Who Chased the Moon” is the story of two women in the town of Mullaby, North Carolina. Emily Benedict is a 16-year-old, recently orphaned who has come from Boston to live with her maternal grandfather, the 8-foot giant Vance. Julia Winterson, Vance’s next door neighbor, is also a recent arrival in Mullaby, having returned after an 18-year absence to take over her deceased father’s BBQ joint. Julia has no intention of staying in Mullaby; she’s saving money to return to Baltimore and open a bakery.
Mullaby is a town of secrets, though, and as Emily gets to know Julia, she learns more about her mother, Dulcie, who left town after she was blamed for the death of one of her classmates. Dulcie was a queen bee in town, who tortured Julia throughout their high school days. Julia responded to the bullying by cutting herself, and the night before she was to leave for reform school, she shared one night with Sawyer, the most popular boy in school that altered the course of her life forever.
As Emily digs into her mother’s past, she’s fascinated with glowing lights that appear in the woods behind her grandfather’s house every night – even though everyone tells her to ignore them. Her mother’s past haunts her as well, when she starts to have feelings for a boy in town, Win Coffey, against the wishes of her grandfather and Win’s family.
Like Allen’s other books, the story is gentle and sweet, and the characters are quirky and likeable. But the story felt predictable, and the ending was just a little too tidy for my taste. Food plays a role in all of Allen’s books, and she does an amazing job of incorporating all of the senses into her descriptions – I defy you to not crave some barbecue and hummingbird cake after reading this book. But unlike her previous books, I just didn’t feel satisfied with this one. It felt rushed and incomplete, like an underbaked cake.

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