Sarah Addison Allen on The Girl Who Chased the Moon
"How tall is he?" she asked, her voice hushed, as if he might hear. "Tall enough to see into tomorrow."--Chapter Two, The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Every book I’ve written has had some element of fairytale to it. The sentient apple tree in Garden Spells. The Rapunzel references in The Sugar Queen. And The Girl Who Chased the Moon is no different. I actually ended up with a giant in this story.
I remember when I first wrote elderly Vance Shelby into The Girl Who Chased the Moon. He walked into a room and had to duck under the doorframe. I knew then that this was no ordinary man. This was a giant. But how tall was too tall? When would real become unreal? It’s a fine line. I began to research gigantism and discovered the tallest man in history for whom there is irrefutable medical proof: Robert Pershing Wadlow, the Giant of Illinois. At the time of his death at the young age of 22, Wadlow was almost nine feet tall. It’s a stunning number, isn’t it? Nine feet tall. I pored over old film and audio interviews from the 1930s, trying to get a feel for what his life was like, so I could present with veracity this magically tall man in my story. What I discovered was a soft-spoken gentle giant whose legs were so long he walked like he was on stilts, whose body listed to the side like a skyscraper made of soft wood instead of concrete. But he was always smiling, accepting the stares and the requests for photos good-naturedly as he toured with Ringling Brothers and the International Shoe Company. He never hid himself away. He mingled among regular-sized people like he knew he had to savor every moment. And maybe he did know. Maybe he was tall enough to see into tomorrow.
In honor of Wadlow, I took all that I thought a young giant might wish for--a long life, a wife, a family, a place that accepted him as he was, where he was just another town oddity--and I gave it to elderly Vance Shelby in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. And as an old giant, Vance looks back on a life he always wanted to be extraordinarily small, and finds that it was exactly the size it needed to be. Which I think might be truth for us all. --Sarah Addison Allen
From Publishers Weekly
Allen's latest (after The Sugar Queen
) takes the familiar setup of a young protagonist returning to the small town where her elusive mother was raised, and subverts it by sprinkling just enough magic into the narrative to keep things lively but short of saccharine. Seventeen-year-old Emily Benedict, intent on learning more about her mother, Dulcie, moves in with her grandfather, but is disappointed to find that her grandfather doesn't want to talk much about Dulcie. She soon discovers, though, that many still hold a grudge against Dulcie for the way she treated an old sweetheart before dumping him and disappearing. Luckily, Dulcie's high school adversary, Julia Winterson, back in town to pay down her deceased father's debt, takes a shine to Emily. She's working another quest as well: baking cakes every day with the hope that they'll somehow attract the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago. There are love interests, big family secrets, and magical happenings (color-changing wallpaper, mysterious lights) aplenty as Allen charts the spiraling inter-generational stories, bringing everything together in an unexpected way. (Mar.)
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