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The Moon Sisters: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2014
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*Starred Review* Jazz and Olivia Moon are about as different as sisters can be. The death of their mother, which appears to have been a suicide, hits them both hard, but their reactions are completely opposite. Practical, 22-year-old Jazz gets a job at the funeral home that handled their mother’s funeral, while dreamy 18-year-old Olivia half blinds herself by staring at the sun and decides to visit a bog to catch sight of the wisps that her mother talked and wrote about. Accompanied by reluctant Jazz, Olivia sets off, but when the bus they’re driving breaks down, Olivia makes the rash decision to stow away on a train. There she meets a tattooed, reticent young drifter named Hobbs, who agrees to help her find the wisps. When Jazz catches up with them, she’s immediately put off by Hobbs and furious with Olivia’s refusal to give up her mission or accept that their mother’s death was a suicide. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Moon sisters’ journey is no quixotic quest, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in their transformative search. This magical, moving tale is not to be missed. --Kristine Huntley
A Library Journal 2014 Best in Women's Fiction
“Wonderful…Walsh, who sets her novel in the remoter and magical regions of West Virginia, constructs a gripping story, rich in thematic texture and narrative technique.” –The Roanoke Times
“A mesmerizing novel with two unique, unforgettable and interesting characters — the Moon sisters. [Walsh] explores family dynamics, love, dreams, ambition and more…If you have a sister, The Moon Sisters will probably touch you in an even deeper way, as it explores the complicated relationships between siblings, especially when parents are unstable themselves. Once you've read a novel by Walsh, you'll want to read more. She has an amazing way with language and building characters you want to get to know.” –The News-Gazette
“Walsh has written a beautiful, lush novel fueled by a fairy-tale journey of grief, love, and will-o'-the-wisps. Fans of coming-of-age novels and magical realism will be drawn in and may never want to leave.” –Library Journal, starred review
“Both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Moon sisters’ journey is no quixotic quest, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in their transformative search. This magical, moving tale is not to be missed.” –Booklist, starred review
“Luminous… Walsh explores how the [Moon] sisters’ experience of the outside world transforms their views of each other and themselves, in a book packed with invention and rich characterizations.” –Publishers Weekly
“Their journey is…one of self-discovery and growth. Their most important lesson is nicely summed up by Jazz near the end: ‘I guess we can’t control life, or the people in it. … But we can control ourselves — right now, in this moment. That’s something. Maybe it’s everything.’” –Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Therese Walsh has done it again. She is fast becoming known for delivering lush, emotional and deeply atmospheric reads that never disappoint. Her second book, The Moon Sisters, is a magical journey of grief, hope and the power of family bonds. It is a novel for the senses, a harmony of sounds, sights, scents and tastes, the likes of which you have never experienced before. You won't want to miss this one.” –Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Lost Lake
“The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh shimmers on the precipice where the grief-stricken teeter between loss and recovery, a place that often resembles madness. Sisters Olivia and Jazz battle as they hold each other tight in this touching coming of age tale that weighs family loyalty against distinctive truths. Walsh leavens magic realism with humor, balances enchantment and pragmatic truth, and stirs them into a poignant family story.” –Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters
“Emotionally taut and intricately woven, The Moon Sisters takes us on a dreamlike journey that is at once literal and literary. A story of family ties stretched to their limits and the underlying wound that bothbinds and breaks them. Therese Walsh has created a compelling read I couldn't put down and a world of authentic travelers who linger long beyond the final pages. A tale of true sisterhood.” –Brunonia Barry, New York Times and International bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places
“The Moon Sisters is a novel to fall in love with… to break your heart over… to linger with and think about after you’ve finished the last of Walsh’s lovely, singing, heart-wrenching words. There is magic in the story and in the language itself and you’ll find yourself wanting to buy a copy for your sister, or your best friend… just so you have someone to share it with.” –M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction and The Book of Lost Fragrances
“This breezy read combines soulful mysticism, the complexities of sibling relationships, and adventure travel as two sisters search for the answers to their novelist mother’s sudden and suspicious death.” –Yoga Journal
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I absolutely identified and fell in love with Jazz, the less loved, older child lost in the shuffle behind her selfish, narcissistic younger sister. Olivia wasn't a bad person, their mother over-identified with her, favored her, and excused her behavior without consequence. Olivia never learned to consider the impact of her behavior on others. Therese Walsh did a magnificent job writing both POVs distinctly--Olivia's filled with vivid imagery and metaphors, Jazz's more practical, but also with a strong voice. Also included were their mother's unsent letters to her father.
There were some unexpected twists I didn't see coming, but that made logical and satisfactory sense. I wasn't especially fond of the end (no spoilers), but still whole heartedly recommend THE MOON SISTERS, which would be a great book club choice. I will definitely read more Therese Walsh in the future,
The novel opens just after the death of their mother, Beth. Jazz, 22 years old, is practical, smart, stubborn and jaded and realizes their mother committed suicide. Olivia, 18, who has synesthesia and says that the sun smells like their mother, can't believe that she would kill herself. This disagreement is the catalyst that Walsh uses throughout the story to keep each sister moving toward her own destiny and truth. Olivia is determined to take their mother's ashes and find ghost lights in a cranberry bog. Her mother spent her life constructing an unfinished novel set in this bog, but she never visited the place herself. Jazz thinks the mission is ridiculous, and there's no way Olivia can go on her own — she's half-blind from staring at the sun, naive and way too trusting of other people.
Their father, who deals with his grief by drinking vodka until he passes out, is unable to protect Olivia from her wild ideas, so Jazz has to step in. The problem is Jazz can't go off on a crazy journey right now —she just got a job at the funeral home where their mother was cremated months before.
When the bus they are driving in breaks down, Olivia hops on a train, where she meets Hobbs, a young man covered in tattoos and running from his own demons. He agrees to take Olivia to find the ghost lights in the bog, and she decides to trust him. This plan would have worked out fine, until Jazz finds her sister and doesn't trust one thing about Hobbs.
To keep track of Olivia, Jazz joins the pair, along with one other train hopper that Hobbs can't seem to get rid of named Red Grass, an older man full of personality and with ulterior motives of his own.
Walsh tells the story from both sisters' points of view with amazing skill. Although each chapter is titled with the sister's name, readers don't need this label to figure out whose telling her story. Each voice is distinct and true to the girl's traits. Walsh also uses flashbacks and letters written by their mother to reveal the complicated relationships of the Moon family and explain how life became depressing enough for Beth to kill herself and set her girls on this trip.
Walsh has several mysteries unraveling as readers make their way to the end of the story; she plants clues along the way, just enough that if readers want to figure out all the connections, they can. They can also just go along on the quest with the sisters and maybe discover something about themselves along the way.
It isn’t often that a writer comes along who can draw readers in and write beautiful prose at the same time. Much of the time, authors are either great at writing beautiful prose or they are terrific at storytelling. Neither way is bad, but when an author is really great at both, a novel can really sing. That’s how Therese Walsh is, making The Moon Sisters a novel that drew me in and left me feeling reflective, touched, and hopeful. Her writing is beautiful and her characters, Jazz and Olivia, are real, honest, quirky, and even funny at times.
As an author myself, one of my favorite aspects of the novel was the thread about writing. The mother of Jazz and Olivia was a writer and she struggled with being able to finish her story. In so many ways it touched me. The longer I write, the more I understand just how much our personal lives affect our writing and this was how it was for the mother in The Moon Sisters. I loved how effortlessly this thread in the novel was woven into the rest of the story, so that it wasn’t a novel about writing at all, but about relationships, unresolved conflict, and learning to let go of the past. I absolutely loved The Moon Sisters.