The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was a bit of a disappointment, because I went in with such high hopes for it. I think that Alice Sebold came out swinging with The Lovely Bones, and she just can't seem to live up to it with this book. In fact, I don't think it's possible for her to beat The Lovely Bones, because it was just that beautiful.
The Almost Moon is about Helen, a woman who has been stuck with a mentally ill mother and an emotionally unstable father her whole life. It took her many years to see it, but once she figured it all out, she became very detached from her family. However, at the same time, she was completely unable to make a decision concerning her own future - rather, she let life be something that happened to her, rather than living her life to the full. When she makes the split-second decision to smother her mother, her one act of control in the entire book, she disconnects from the rest of the narrative and from herself. She doesn't seem to know herself, or anyone around her. She can't make a coherent decision or even have a truly coherent thought from that point on.
Spoilers after the jump.
The end of the novel was a disappointment as well - by sitting there in her mother's neighbor's house, abandoning plans to kill herself in favor of waiting for the police to find her there when they finish searching her mother's house, she shows how truly powerless she is in her own life. It almost makes me almost wish she had actually killed herself, to give herself one final act of power. But in the end, Helen is a weak-willed, weak-minded woman, whose self was smothered by a mentally ill mother and was never truly awakened again.
The book left me feeling sad, not in the way a sad book is supposed to make you feel, but in the way that I had looked forward to reading it for so long, but it didn't live up to the pedestal I had put it on. I recommend it as a read, but only if you aren't expecting it to measure up to The Lovely Bones (and especially if you haven't read The Lovely Bones - that way, no disappointment to be had in comparison). It's probably unfair to compare the two books, since they are so vastly different, but it's something that really can't be helped when you consider the reasons why people read books by the same author.
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