The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Published by Crown Publishing ISBN 978-0-307-46160-5
Hardcover, $25, 320 pages
Olivia and Jazz are adult sisters, still living at home with their parents. One day, Olivia comes home to find that her mother is dead. The question that will haunt the sisters is whether their mother died accidentally or whether she committed suicide. The gas on the stove was on, the pilot light out, the windows and doors closed.
Their father is lost in his grief, unable to help his daughters through theirs. Their father's mother, Babka, owns a bakery, where their dad works. Olivia has synesthesia, which is defined as "the stimulation of a sense other than the one receiving input; sensory areas with faulty wiring." She could smell sights- "Papa was fresh grass, the sun was Mama"-, and taste words- Mama's freckles "tasted like togetherness". She could see sounds- "Babka's voice looked like a tumble of soft flour."
Olivia feels guilty that her mother died while she was off with a young man. Olivia had been home schooled by her mother, and they spent much of their time together. She felt like she should have seen that her mother was depressed.
And so Olivia gets it into her head that she should take her mother's ashes and scatter them in a bog where her mother had set a novel she was working on at the time of her death. The truth was, her mother had been working on this book for a very long time, but never made much progress.
As Olivia was legally blind (she looked into the sun too long and it blinded her), she couldn't drive to the bog to scatter the ashes. Jazz, who was set to start a new job at the funeral home where her mother had her services, felt forced to follow Olivia and take her to the bog.
Their car breaks down, and Olivia ends up with a group of train hoppers on a train, not knowing that Jazz has also hopped the train looking for her. Olivia falls for one of the hoppers, Hobbs, a mysterious man with markings all over his face and another man on his tail.
There are magical elements to this story, and some ghost stories, which I did not know are ubiquitous in West Virginia, where the story takes place. Along with the questions surrounding Mama's death, we have the mystery of why Hobbs is being followed by Red, a man who appears to be a bounty hunter.
The story is told alternately by Olivia and Jazz, and interspersed in the story are letters written by Mama to her father, a man who disowned his daughter and cut off all contact with her. Her letters are heartbreaking, and we get to know Beth (Mama) through these letters, as well as through Olivia and Jazz.
The sisterly relationship is the heart of the book, and Walsh really nails it. The sibling rivalry, the way they fight with and protect each other and argue and love each other will feel so real to anyone who has a sister.
The writing is poetic, and I loved what Babka told Olivia when Olivia told her about a dream she had- "Dreams like feet better than knees". What a fantastic thing to say, and it comes up more than once in this magical, haunting novel.
Another line I liked was said about Hobbs by one of the female train hoppers- "Too bad his walls are so high up, and I'm such a lazy climber." You get the character of Hobbs right away from just that one line.
But what Mama said really puts the point on this book: "All of life's twist and turns might be analyzed at some later date, shown to be necessary in order to arrive at some other point in the future- a point that would end up being important in a life." She believed that fate would put you wherever you needed to be.
There are some real twist and turns in the story that will knock the breath out you as you read them, and I did not see one big one coming that just made me sob. Walsh puts you through the ringer and it is an emotional ride well worth taking.
rating 4 of 5
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this book tour. The rest of Therese Walsh's stops are here:
Therese Walsh’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, March 3rd: Lit and Life
Tuesday, March 4th: Beth Fish Reads – “Today’s Read” guest post
Tuesday, March 4th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, March 5th: Book-a-licious Mama
Thursday, March 6th: girlichef
Friday, March 7th: Books in the Burbs
Monday, March 10th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, March 11th: Traveling with T
Wednesday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, March 13th: Book Snob
Friday, March 14th: The Book Barn
Tuesday, March 18th: Fiction Addict
Tuesday, March 18th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, March 19th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, March 20th: Bibliotica
Monday, March 24th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Wednesday, March 26th: A Novel Review
Thursday, March 27th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, April 1st: Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, April 2nd: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, April 8th: Books a la Mode
Therese Walsh's website is here.