Friday, 16 August 2019

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold


The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Published by Little, Brown and Company in October 2007.

How I got this book:
Passed on from a friend

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.

A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this brilliant, powerful and unforgettable novel by the author of The Lovely Bones.

For years, Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now-grown daughters. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined.

Unfolding over twenty-four hours, The Almost Moon explores the ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the humanity and fluidity that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in April 2016.
A bizarre story which is very different from Sebold's debut novel, The Lovely Bones, I can understand why The Almost Moon has such widely varying reviews. This isn't a comfortable book to read. It confronts some of the worst of human behaviour in a way that doesn't allow readers to shrink away from what these characters are doing and have done. Moreover, I don't think that anyone is likeable. On the first page we witness Helen murdering her elderly helpless mother and the shock of such a powerful start reverberates through the following twenty-four hours of story.

Both Dave and I have read The Almost Moon and, I believe, have pretty similar views. We loved the actual writing throughout the novel. The prose isn't always grammatically perfect, but it flows at a great pace which makes The Almost Moon a page-turner. I loved Sebold's evocative descriptions and her ability to allow her readers right up close to the family's madness. From questioning Helen's sanity, I began to understand why she might have been driven to such an extreme act by the decades of provocation she endured. Looking back over her childhood allowed us to see the folie a deux of her parents, her mother's extreme agrophobia which alienated the neighbourhood, and - in a powerful scene - the pathetic poignancy of the figures in her father's sanctuary.

What spoilt this book for me though and the reason why I have only given an on-the-fence three stars is that some of the behaviours exhibited seemed so unreal that they jerked me out of the story's reality. Why go to the tub instead of bringing the tub to the house? Why does Helen's husband so blithely accept what she's done? I know this is a story about madness so the unexpected should be expected, but these people aren't stupid. Perhaps it can be explained by the timescale of The Almost Moon only being the one day after the crime, but the book jumps back over so many years that I found it difficult to keep the present-day timeline in mind.


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Books by Alice Sebold / Crime fiction / Books from America

10 comments:

  1. I never liked the two books of the author that I tried but I actually really liked her brutally honest memoirs 'Lucky'. The poor woman really went through some tough things in her life.

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    1. I haven't read Lucky because I thought it might be too triggering for me. Sebold is an inspiringly strong woman

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  2. This is a beautiful read - certainly recommend to all

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    1. I'm glad to learn you enjoyed The Almost Moon :-)

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  3. Sheesh. That first scene is disturbing to say the least. I don't know if I would have the gumption to continue, to be honest.

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  4. This sounds an interesting read, not sure it's for me though.

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    1. It's not quite as graphic as, say, The Good Son (http://litflits.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-good-son-by-you-jeong-jeong.html) but still has a pretty horrifying theme

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  5. I have read The Lovely Bones but in some ways I already that that one was a bit bizarre, so this might be too bizarre for me to enjoy at all. I can see how all the unlikeable characters make the story jarring and very confrontational.

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    1. This one is shockingly dark and a difficult read

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