Wednesday, April 9, 2014

9 Heart Review: The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh + Giveaway! (US)

The Moon Sisters
by Therese Walsh
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Page Count: 317

Release Date: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Crown (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

This mesmerizing coming-of-age novel, with its sheen of near-magical realism, is a moving tale of family and the power of stories.

After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights—is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest.

Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.
"If you live your whole life hoping and dreaming the wrong things, what does that mean about your whole life?"

Beth Moon believed in one thing her entire adulthood—something that surpassed the importance of her husband, children, and self. Beth Moon was a writer, one who incorporated her dream into every word she penned, and one who penned words into every dream she dreamed. Upon recognizing the inevitable void in her entire crux of belief, she fell into a terrifying depression; and soon after, she took her own life.

But this is not the story of Beth Moon. Not really, anyways. This is the story of Beth Moon's untimely, ill-fated death: the uncovering of and reconciliation with her past, her ailments, her baggage. This is the story of her dreams and her writing: her unsent letters and unfinished novel. Ultimately, however, this is the story of her daughters, Jazz and Olivia Moon, and more importantly: of their inheritance.

Olivia's reality has always been bizarre, so when she decides to toss her mother's ashes into a suitcase and leave her isolated West Virginian hometown to go off to fulfill her mother's yearnings, Jazz isn't all that surprised.
[Olivia has] never been the poster child for sense.
Olivia's unfaltering quest propels the clashing sisters into what begins as a risky adventure—involving traveling, train-hoppers, and the unforgiving wilderness—and ends in devastating but simultaneously uplifting family revelations that makes The Moon Sisters one of the most evocative and perceptive adult coming-of-age novels I've ever read.

Narrated in alternating first-person voices of the two sisters, the novel elegantly embodies the suffocation and restlessness that arises from living in a small town, as well as the many faces and stages of grief. Readers follow both Jazz and Olivia's physical and emotional journeys as they lose their way, find their way, fall apart, and fall in love; with this progression, readers discover how each sister deals with her own denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, triumphantly: acceptance.

One of the most significant questions Therese Walsh raises through both of the Moon daughters is on the worthwhileness of hoping and believing. The elusiveness of dreams—a once-comforting notion—increasingly causes both sisters distress as they reflect upon their respective childhoods and their mother's dismal reason for existence. Is it smart to hope and dream? Is it safe? Does it ever end in anything other than disappointment?

I was impressed by how realistic Jazz, the older sister, is—so flawed and easy to sympathize with. It was difficult for me to like her because she's so uptight, so logical, but I identify with her in so many other ways. Olivia, on the other hand, is a brightly burning character—both on the pages, and off. Her way of thought is difficult to penetrate—partly due to the synesthesia, partly due to the undeveloped sense of maturity—but it doesn't make her any less distinct; she's a colorful, imaginative character who's entirely offbeat, but that much more lovable. Therese Walsh is excellent with describing the flavor of words and the appearance of sounds and the way a person can smell like the sun. As in Amaryllis in Blueberry and A Mango-Shaped Space, the author vividly creates a different kind of reality from within Olivia; the effect is subtly hallucinogenic and staggeringly poetic.

While Hobbs, Olivia's secretive train-hopping companion, is a minor character, his relationship with Olivia smolders, ignites... intoxicates. I won't give too much away, but their slow-building rapport made me melt and shatter and want to cry. The Moon Sisters isn't explicitly a romance, but it contains overwhelming glimpses into the sheer capacity and capability of the human connection, that will desperately make you wish it was.

Illuminated by Walsh's mesmerizing, commanding voice, The Moon Sisters reads dreamlike—magical and dizzying and airy—but still possesses the emotional weight of coping and continuing—the care, keeping, and purging of ghosts, if you will. Readers will easily identify with the firmly planted emotions regarding tortured souls, family bonds, and the weakness and resilience that comes with being human.

Pros


Perfectly blends adventure, family drama, and personal reflection together // Exquisite style // Both sisters' points of view are equally refreshing and intriguing // Olivia and Hobbs... ugh ♥ // Story lulls in pace, but the tension makes it impossible to put down // Emotionally, powerfully reflective of the human heart and propensity to dream // Trippy, dreamlike perspectives are so well constructed

Cons


Slow start // Didn't like how Beth Moon's letters are actually displayed. They seem much too private and were disappointing solely because it seems impossible to write them the way I imagined them

Love

There was no snapping branches or movements between us then. Only a sense of seeing that went beyond what anyone might perceive with eyes.

He's uglier than sin, you know.

I doubted I would believe that even if I weren't living life on periphery and bound for a further edge, if I could see Hobbs's dragon-camouflage skin with all its details. Liking him felt more honest than anything I'd experienced before, too, maybe because of its quick-form, raw-wound beginning and lack of clarity, its sheer instinct, and the fact neither of us had turned yet to run in the other direction.

"You don't scare me, Hobbs."

"Said the girl who stared at the sun."

Verdict


An intricate, intimate portrait of one young woman's quest to carry out her deceased mother's unfulfilled dream—as well as her older sister's determination to put an end to it—The Moon Sisters is a gorgeously crafted and expressive examination of the importance of sticking together as a family, maintaining fair perspective, and the harmful but necessary means of self-preservation. Offering endless discussion on topics such as the true difference between blindness and sight, the role and impact of mothers, and the dangers of the foolish fire that is hope, this would make a terrific book-club read. Therese Walsh skillfully weaves a complicated story with even more complicated roots in this glorious second novel; I love and recommend it wholeheartedly Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one finished print copy of The Moon Sisters—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What's something you're determined to do or experience before you die?

Don't forget to include your email address or Twitter username in your comment so I know who to contact when I choose a winner. Don't make me track you down!!!! No email = No entry!
My serious answer: I know this is way way way too early for me to be thinking about, but I don't want to die before starting my own family. The loving husband, the two-point-five children, the rowdy dog, the white picket fence—all that average stuff ;)
My less serious answer: Write (and publish!) a novel.

What about you?

Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Therese and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC and Random House!
Giveaway ends April 22nd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, international readers! Check out my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!