The New Moon's Arms Paperback – November 13, 2012
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"The New Moon's Arms is a dance of lost-and-found. Hopkinson knows not to get too sentimental, thanks in large part to her heroine's unsinkable sense of humor. It let me hear the mermaids singing."―Washington Post Book World
"Considerable talent for character, voice, and lushly sensual writing...her most convincing and complex character to date."―Locus
"Hopkinson has had a remarkable impact on popular fiction....[Her] work continues to question the very genre she adopts, transforming them from within through her fierce intelligence and her commitment to a radical vision that refuses easy consumption...With sly humor and great tenderness, [she] draws out the hope residing in age and change"―Toronto Globe and Mail
"Shows new depths of wisdom, humor, and insight . . . Like life, Hopkinson's novel doesn't resolve every mystery. But Hopkinson has answered the essential questions in The New Moon's Arms, and she's wise enough to know we need nothing more."―Seattle Times
About the Author
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Not far in, however, the flashback sequences start and lend a truly mesmerizing element of magical realism to the story. There are really two stories coming to a meeting here, past and present interweaving to explain how this woman came to this place in her life, forcing her to move beyond events that have stifled her.
I also loved the fact that the main character wasn't another twenty-something, but a woman entering menopause. I was lucky enough to hear the author talk about this book, and that's quite an intentional and crucial aspect of the story. There's a scene early on in the story on the beach at night, with just the main character. It is, in my opinion, the best scene in the entire book - it lends a kind of magic to the story that only that character could bring, and she has to be a woman of some years for this to work. It sure damn did.
My only other criticism of the story is that it seemed to me to meander just a little bit toward the end, and the end didn't seem as developed as I would have liked.
Overall, for me, the glorious moments (the beach scene, the tree-climbing scene, the appearance of the cashew grove) more than made up for the parts that were 'only' good. Most writers should have such problems with their writing. I will definitely be reading more from this author.
It is never a dull moment with Calamity. Try as she might, she is losing the battle with Mother Nature and with the encroaching onset of menopause, she reawakens a unique, repressed childhood gift to find lost things. This gift, which hilariously coincides with tingling fingers and hot flashes at the most inopportune moments, results in remnants from the past literally falling from the sky triggering a reemergence of forgotten and sometimes painful memories. Following her father's funeral, Calamity partakes in a drinking binge to wallow in self-pity on the nearby beach. She awakens to discover a "lost" child has washed ashore covered in seaweed. Careful medical examination by her childhood friend-turned- tormentor, Dr. Chow, confirms that the child is a bit "different;'" and deliberately suppresses her suspicions that he is one of the mythical Sea People. When two similar adult bodies are discovered the next day, Calamity identifies with the orphan's apparent parental loss. She names him Agway; embraces and welcomes him into her home worsening her frail relationship with Ife even more.
To complicate matters further, she is suddenly overwhelmed by life: Her new love suggests opening the unsolved cold case surrounding her mother's disappearance; Ife's marriage is in shambles spawned by arguments with her husband surrounding the upcoming election and the heated political factions facing the island's tourist trade; Ife's father, her first love, comes to visit and brings his new lover; Stanley needs her assistance to complete his school project; endangered, indigenous seals are missing from the local zoo; and last, caring for a rambunctious three-year-old "merboy" who loves to eat raw shrimp is putting her close to the edge!
It may sound a bit convoluted but it is not; the author does an excellent job of lacing the plot threads together and it all comes together beautifully. It is a delightful, endearing story about family, loss, and reclamation. I absolutely loved the infusion of humor, African Diasporatic themes, West Indian culture, language, history, and folklore into the story. This is one of my favorite reads so far this year.
Reviewed by Phyllis
Nubian Circle Book Club
But everyone else has already rated this book a triumph. What I hope to add is over-the-moon praise for its success as an audio book. Gin Hammond is one of the best narrators I've ever heard, and I listen to 10 hours of audiobooks a week. She captures Calamity's voice the best, but also gives distinct but subtle shading to every other character young and old, male and female. She laughs and snarls beautifully, and she captures the wistful but hard-edged tone of a book that believes in magic and still holds us responsible for every act and decision. Taken together, the book and performance are transporting. Bravo!
Top international reviews
As a child, Calamity was a finder of lost things. Now experiencing menopause, every time she has a hot flash something missing returns to her. The most unexpected of these is a three-year-old boy, washed up on the shores of her Caribbean island home, where seals mysteriously disappear and rumours of sea people are scattered among the locals. With webbed fingers and peculiar features and only speaking an unrecognisable language, Calamity adopts the child as her own, causing problems with her adult daughter.
Calamity is a terrible person. If it is not obvious from the beginning, it quickly becomes so. She is unsympathetic to her daughter, disgustingly homophobic and biphobic, and incredibly selfish. She is a woman stuck in her ways, and the author does a brilliant thing by making me still want to read about her and see if adopting Agway will change her. Even more brilliant is how Hopkinson holds off information yet keeps you wanting more. The severity of Calamity's actions did not fully dawn on me until the final two chapters, and the result is effective. The thread of disconnect from culture and family is spread thinly throughout, but it really comes together when all is revealed. What I also loved was the setting. I don't know if the novel entirely counts as magic realism, but I loved that aspect of it being in between real and imagined, and how some people shrug off the supernatural occurrences and others pretend it's not happening. I've never read anything quite like this before, but I loved it.
Diversity note: black protagonist
Warnings: death, illness, hospital, drowning, blood, homophobia, biphobia, ableism
The storyline of the `people of the sea' was a little unbelievable, but not inconceivable, and that added to the intrigue of wanting to know where Agua (the boy that Calamity `fosters') appeared from and how she was going to get him back.
It was an interesting book with many parts to it; her menopause, the death of her father and the disappearance of her mother all entwined with her volatile relationship with her daughter and the love for her grandson, and strangely enough Agua the `boy from the sea'.
Soul Sisters Book Club