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The Moonflower Vine: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – March 24, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 303 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jetta Carleton (1913-1999) moved from Holden, Missouri, to New York City to work as a television copywriter for national advertising agencies. Her widely beloved New York Times bestseller The Moonflower Vine was, until now, her only published novel.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061673234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061673238
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (303 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book as a teenager -- as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book in the 60's -- and never forgot it. In about 1990 I found it in a library and read the full novel. The Moonflower Vine is an exquisite portrait of a rural family and the forces that both bind them together and push them apart. Matthew Soames is a farmer/schoolteacher who wants to live in more than one world. His wife Callie is content with the life Matthew has put her in, even content to remain illiterate in the face of his constant studies. They and their four highly individualistic daughters (including one who flies off with an early, amateur aviator) each have a story to tell, and a secret to keep. In today's age of "tell all" there is something both guilty and immensely pleasurable about keeping this secret with them. The plot is not, however, contrived. Carleton's style is plain, in some ways. At the same time, it offers more: you sit down to a meal of meat-and-potatoes prose; then the salads and side dishes start arriving. It's a lavish feast of words.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read "The Moonflower Vine" in the summer of 1972, when I would put my children to bed for their naps. It has become my ritual every summer to reread this book. I not only feel that I know these characters personally, but the story reminds me of a simpler time when I spent my afternoons tending my garden and reading and watching my children play in the sun. I would love to have Jetta Carleton's gift. She has said what so many of us wish we could say about our families - "...all the days that we had spent here together. What was I going to do when such days came no more?" I had no idea that copies of this book were so hard to come by. I will now treasure it even more. If you can find it, and have not read it, please do so. Then plant some moonflowers of your own. You'll never forget this story.
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By A Customer on March 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
My heart is full because I just finished reading "The Moonflower Vine." I don't know what else to do except to express my gratitude by writing this review.
I am just overwhelmed by the truth and honesty of this book. (And it's very funny in spots, too). Every single one of the characters feels as if they are alive and breathing inside the book. Do yourself a favor. Track down this book and read it. You will treasure it as I do now.
A friend recommended it to me because he had seen all the references to Oprah Winfrey connected to this book. I agree. If she ever reads it, watch out, world, because she will see to it that this book is reprinted and becomes famous.
Remember how you felt when you closed the covers of the best book you ever read? That's the way you'll feel when you've finished "The Moonflower Vine;" it's truly a classic.
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Format: Hardcover
Jetta Carleton is a master at developing the characters in this family. She has an incredible ability to develop each person separately, then weave them together to complete a jigsaw puzzle of one family's life through fifty years. She maintains interest and surprise as each chapter enlightens the reader and the pieces of this life-puzzle fall into place. I first read this book in 1963, and have read it about four times. The older I get, the more I see the true essence of life as Jetta Carleton describes it. A timeless illustration of living.
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