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A Homey Little Book

Guest Post by Petra Mucnjak.

This novel begins with a young girl named Emily Benedict returning to the small town of Mullaby, where her mother had grown up and her grandfather still resides. Although her grandfather’s demeanor appears to be somewhat aloof, her grandfather welcomes Emily home, generously offering her the choice of picking one of his many empty spare rooms as her bedroom. Naturally, the girl chooses her mother’s former room and soon realizes that it possesses an extraordinary air to it. Then there is the issue of the mysterious lights which have the habit of appearing over the lake at night . . .

The Girl Who Chased The Moon is the first book I have read by Sarah Addison Allen and, expecting a syrupy family-reconciliation-romance novel, I was delightfully surprised upon encountering a humorous, warm, humane tale about family, friends, and how being haunted by the ghosts of the past doesn’t necessarily have to mean havoc. Miss Allen’s writing is very poetic, her words luring the reader into her small American town with no more or less than the charm of a siren. Sentences like “The air outside was tomato-sweet and hickory-smokey, all at once delicious and strange,” brought me into the center of this wonderful atmosphere, making my senses hum.

I would describe The Girl Who Chased The Moon as a “homey” little book. The story is laced with the sort of sweetness and courteousness everyone imagines when thinking about sleepy little towns, tucked away in the country. The characters are warm and hospitable although the thin yet palpable veil of secrecy always seems to separate them from the reader. Nevertheless, throughout the book, I felt a special fondness for Emily’s grandfather, Vance.

Grandpa Vance is a quiet man whose unusual height made him an outcast at a very young age thus condemning him to a life of loneliness. This seclusion, in turn, has left him socially awkward, eventually turning him into an outcast that the town hardly ever mentions. My heart went out to this character at the very beginning of the book because even his granddaughter chose the path of least resistance by exhibiting coldness towards him.

As the story delves into the life of Emily’s mother, however, the reader gradually grows to realize that building walls around themselves is this family’s standard “go to” remedy for solving problems. Nothing ever seems to be resolved amongst the characters, an open wound which stings young Emily from the beginning of the novel yet, on the other hand, fills her with the courage to address this issue and do something about it. I also found myself blaming Emily’s mother for never sharing the story of her past with her daughter thus preparing her for the situation the child found herself in. The mother could have assumed that, sooner or later, Emily’s journey would lead her upon the path towards her mother’s home town and she ought to have prepared the child for what would await her there.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon serves the very thing that people search for when picking up a book: it intrigues and holds the reader’s attention. Sarah Addison Allen has a quiet, charming way of “pulling” the reader into this magical small town and practically injects her peculiar characters into the reader’s heart, leaving the reader with no other choice but to love them. Although The Girl Who Chased The Moon is labeled a romance novel, it certainly doesn’t lack its portion of mystery.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Bantam, February 2011.

Reviewer bio: My name is Petra Mucnjak. I live in Zagreb, Croatia and reading is my favourite hobby. Aside from Croatian, I’m also fluent in the English language because my family and I lived in the Republic of South Africa when I was a child and where I attended primary school. Aside from being an avid reader, I’m also in the process of writing a romance novel, which is in the English language. I’m often asked to translate various scripts from Croatian to English (and vice versa) and, periodically, I help children with their English homework.

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