Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Cyber Monday Deals Week Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Prime Music Sweepstakes egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Luxury Beauty Gifts for Her Amazon Gift Card Offer mithc mithc mithc  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage Shop Now bgg
Customer Review

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family, faith, rebellion; secrets, love, independence; and time, July 4, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Moonflower Vine (Mass Market Paperback)
I have re-read this book probably more often than any other book in my adult life. The story unfolds in rural Missouri over the first two-thirds of the 20th century, but its themes and its allure are timeless: family, faith, rebellion, secrets, love, independence, and time. Matthew and Callie Soames raise four daughters: Jessica, Leonie, Mary Jo, and Mathy. The book tells their stories one lifetime at a time, starting with the oldest daughter, Jessica, who introduces us to her parents and siblings and their life growing up in the Ozarks. Then we meet Matthew, the father, whose inner life and story -- and whose foolish heart -- are a far cry from the stern schoolmaster who rules his home and his daughters' lives with an austere and lonely love. ("To his daughters as they grew up, Matthew Soames was God and the weather." His character has often reminded me of the father in Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays.") Mathy, the youngest daughter, is the family's most vivid and most tragic character, a free spirit who flies a little too close to the sun. Leonie is her father's daughter, but also a child of her era, and through her Matthew is ultimately reconciled to Mathy.

But each lifetime is only a piece in the puzzle of the Soames family until Callie, the strong, understated matriarch, who keeps the hardest secret of all; not until her story is told do all the others finally come together into a whole portrait, even though each story before hers seemed whole enough on its own. The book's title comes from the flowers that bloom for one night a year in the Ozarks, when the family reunites to watch them bloom for such a short season. The last chapter of Callie's story, when she suddenly finds herself an old woman and the reader suddenly discovers that half a century has passed with the Soameses, is one of the most penetrating insights into aging that I have ever read.

"The Moonflower Vine" contains as many tragedies as a family could normally expect in half a century, but not too many, and overall it is an affirming and empowering novel. But its saddest fact doesn't appear in the novel at all -- that Jetta Carleton, whose literary debut is a masterpiece, never wrote another book. "The Moonflower Vine" was an overnight sensation when it was published in 1962 -- a Literary Guild selection, and a Reader's Digest Condensed Book in 1963. But four decades later, Jetta Carleton and her book are nearly forgotten. Jetta Carleton Lyon lived a full and happy life, moving in 1970 to New Mexico, where she ran a small publishing company until her death in 1999. "The Moonflower Vine" was reprinted by Bantam in 1984, and by Buccaneer in 1995.

My grandmother collected Reader's Digest Condensed Books, and I discovered "The Moonflower Vine" as a child at her home years later (in the same volume with "The Shoes of the Fisherman" by Morris West). Soon afterward, I had to read the whole novel. A quarter century has passed, and I still can't pick it up without reading it again. And I never put it down without a catch in my throat.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 16, 2008 10:22:35 PM PDT
moviegoer says:
I loved what you said about "The Moonflower Vine." The book affected me in a very similar way, and I have read and re-read it, and it holds up under repeated readings. What a shame
Carleton never produced another book, but how wonderful that she gave us this one. I think you have wonderful taste in books.

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 1:54:26 PM PDT
Your review is one of the most insightful and accurate reviews I've ever read.

Posted on Aug 23, 2013 10:03:51 AM PDT
KP says:
Wonderful review! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and impressions of this book. The background information on the author was also intriguing. I now know that I definitely want to read this book and plan to check out other reviews by you.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details



Location: Minneapolis, MN United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 122,517