Review: The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Moon Sisters by Therese WalshThe Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Published by Crown on March 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: TLC Book Tours
AmazonThe Book Depository

A beautiful coming-of-age novel about two sisters on a journey to forgive their troubled mother, with a sheen of almost-magical realism that overlays a story about the love of a family, and especially between sisters.

Therese Walsh's poignant and mesmerizing novel is a moving tale of family, love, and the power of stories. After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how 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 say her final goodbyes and lay their mother's spirit to rest.

Though they see things very differently, Jazz is forced by her sense of duty to help Olivia reach her goal. Bitter and frustrated by the attention heaped on her sunny sister whose world is so unique, Jazz is even more upset when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper. Though Hobbs warns Olivia that he's a thief who shouldn't be trusted, he agrees to help with their journey. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, and they will finally be forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

What attracted me to The Moon Sisters was the mention of magical realism in the blurb. Well, if that’s what you’re after, here’s a warning: there’s a reason it says “almost magical realism.” While I see what they’re saying, that’s misleading. I mean,  COME ON. Magical realism is almost fantasy. Almost magical realism is a whimsical contemporary. Almost magical realism is not a thing, but the blurbers knew that people like me would want the magical realism and pick the book up. I did enjoy The Moon Sisters, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

The Moon Sisters tells the story of two sisters trying to handle their feelings in the wake of their mother’s death, apparently by suicide. Older sister Jazz is trying to move on with her life, complete with a new job at a funeral home. Younger sister Olivia refuses to accept that her mother’s death might have been a suicide, and is determined to visit the Cranberry Glades, a place her mother always wanted to visit to find the ending to her story.

The mother dreamed of being an author, and had been working on a fairy tale ever since her father disowned her for getting pregnant. Every year, the mother wrote him a letter, but she never sent them. Contained within these letters are her dreams of finishing the novel and winning her father’s love back. Unfortunately, she can’t find an ending for her story, and dies leaving that undone.

Jazz thinks Olivia’s determination to go find a will o’ the wisp and finish the story is ridiculous, but has to follow Olivia, who is half-blind from staring at the sun. The journey is not an easy one, of course. They’re thrown off course by a broken van, train-hopping, and criminals. Olivia also falls into instalove with someone along the way, much to Jazz’s consternation. It’s a rather strange book, I’ll admit, but it’s firmly based in a contemporary setting.

Set in rural West Virginia, The Moon Sisters does have a very strong feeling of setting. Walsh’s writing has a simple sort of beauty to it and feels southern without resorting to any clichés. However, the dual first person perspectives did not work for me, as their narratives really sounded the same to me. Despite the fact that Olivia is synesthetic and supposedly sees the world incredibly differently from practical Jazz, her narration really isn’t much different. Olivia rarely exhibits signs of synesthesia except in the occasional conversation about it. That’s something I would have loved to have seen more of, because different world views are fascinating.

Though I found The Moon Sisters likable, I’m rather disappointed at some opportunities that never came to fruition. I you’re looking for a quiet southern contemporary with a bit of oddness, a story of dealing with grief, and no magical realism, though, The Moon Sisters might meet your fancy.

Favorite Quote:

“I believe in you,” I said. “I also believe I just gagged from saying that, even though it’s true.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

magic real life is tragic

3 responses to “Review: The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh”

  1. Bonnie says:

    I wanted this because of the mention of magical realism too! …she’s half-blind from staring at the sun? I hate when there are separate narratives and they sound exactly the freaking same. Makes it so confusing to follow. Was the synesthesia bit supposed to be the ‘magical realism’ in the story? Yeah I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up. Sounds nothing like I was anticipating from that summary.
    Bonnie recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Undertaking by Audrey MageeMy Profile

  2. Suko says:

    I have just read and reviewed this book on the tour. I enjoyed it a great deal! The two perspectives (plus Mama’s) really worked well for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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