The Almost Moon

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Overview

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

So begins The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold's astonishing, brilliant, and daring new novel. A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this unforgettable work by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.

For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible ...

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The Almost Moon: A Novel

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Overview

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

So begins The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold's astonishing, brilliant, and daring new novel. A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this unforgettable work by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.

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

Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex 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 fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

About the Author
Alice Sebold is the bestselling author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky: A Memoir. She lives in California with her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Joan Allen fails to breathe sufficient life into Alice Sebold's second novel to make it worth the listen, but she really doesn't have much to work with. Helen Knightly, a divorced mother of two grown daughters, impulsively murders her 88-year-old mother, Claire. The story then flips back and forth between Helen's response to her present-day act and long flashbacks exploring her love/hate relationships with her emotionally volatile, agoraphobic mother and her suicidal, peculiarly obsessed father. Allen's calm, even voice makes Helen's most irrational actions (smothering her mother, cutting her clothes off, bathing her dead body and dragging it down to the basement) sound nearly as reasonable to listeners as they do to Helen. Allen also marvelously evokes the cracked, demented tones of Helen's aged mother. Unfortunately, the older Claire Knightly appears in only the smallest portion of the book, and Allen barely troubles to distinguish the voices of the other characters. Her unvarying voice, combined with the tediously introspective text, make this audio a real slog. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 27). (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Much has been made of Sebold's opening line to her new novel, but it immediately sets the listener up for a roller-coaster journey into ethics and family relationships that may seem too familiar to some and too discomforting to others. Helen Knightly's climactic decision opens the book, but her history with her mother, Clair, and her deceased father are brutally explored through the skillful weaving of memories and haunted immediacy. Almost Moonis very different from The Lovely Bones, and yet the strength of the author's sense of danger told rather matter-of-factly is highly compelling. Joan Allen's reading is almost hypnotic. Highly recommended.
—Joyce Kessel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600240300
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Publication date: 10/16/2007
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold is the bestselling author of The Lovely Bones, a novel, and Lucky, a memoir. She lives in California with her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold.

Biography

As Alice Sebold relates in her chilling memoir Lucky, she was considered fortunate for surviving a violent, devastating rape in her freshman year at Syracuse University. The woman before her had not been so "lucky": she was murdered and dismembered.

The shadow of this fact survives in Sebold's acclaimed bestseller The Lovely Bones, which is narrated by another not-so-lucky victim from beyond the grave. It's such a maudlin premise that the book shouldn't have been successful—in fact, Sebold's editor has told the author that the manuscript never would have been bought if she had been told what it was about before reading it.

But in her ability to convey the brutal details of crime and its aftermath—both the imagined instance and the real—Sebold proved herself a gripping writer. In a style that is straightforward but more than reportorial, she projected in The Lovely Bones the pitch-perfect voice of a dead 14-year-old girl who, from her vantage point in heaven, remains engaged with life on earth. The book was a sensation and appeared on most "best books" lists for 2002.

Five years later, Sebold produced The Almost Moon, the chilling tale of a woman driven by circumstances to commit an unspeakable act. The novel begins with one of the most arresting first lines in recent memory: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."

Good To Know

Sebold is married to author Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil. The two met when Sebold was in the fiction writing program at University of California, Irvine.

Part of the aftermath of Sebold's traumatic rape in college was a long period of self-abuse, including heroin addiction. After a hard trial in New York trying (and failing) to get published, Sebold decided to leave the city and ultimately applied to grad school at Irvine. ''I couldn't handle the rejection and the failure anymore…and the 'almost' of it all,'' she told Entertainment Weekly. ''Everybody from New York has their almost-but-not-quite story, and I just felt like I don't want to be walking around on the planet trotting out mine.''

Sebold says that her continued failures ended up creating a good mindset for her writing. "After a while, you don't think what can't be done and what can be done, because no one's going to care anyway," she said in an Associated Press interview. "You just go and have fun in your room, which is what, to me, art should be about anyway."

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    1. Hometown:
      Long Beach, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 6, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Madison, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University; studied poetry, University of Houston, 1984-85; M.F.A. in fiction, UC-Irvine, 1998

Reading Group Guide

Questions and topics for discussion

After the conversation with her father about almost moons, Helen says, "I knew I was supposed to understand something from my father's explanation, but what I came away with was that, just as we were stuck with the moon, so too we were stuck with my mother." (page 134) What did Helen's father intend to say with his example of almost moons? Did you think his metaphor was apt?

The Almost Moon opens with a startling confession. After the first several pages, why did you think Helen killed her mother? Did you feel sympathy for her at that point? As you learned more about Helen's relationship with her mother - and her mother's overall mental state - did your feelings about Helen change? Did you think she was more justified to act as she did, or did you lose sympathy for her?

In Chapters 2-4 and Chapter 11, Helen flashes back to memories from her past. In the first section, she is slowly removing her mother's clothes to bathe her. In the second, she is posing for art students. What do you think Sebold is implying about the relationship of the body to memory? Can you think of other instances in the text when the tactile leads Helen into a greater understanding or awareness of hers or another's past?

What motivated Daniel to stay with Clair for all of those years? Do you think his bouts of depression stemmed from a difficult home situation, or did he have larger issues? Should he have taken his daughter and left his wife - for Helen's sake, if not his own - or did he do the right thing by taking care of his wife, so that she wouldn't have to be in an institution? How much do we owe to those we love or have married?

What moves Helen to seek a physical connection with Hamish? Did you think their interaction was more than just physical? Was their relationship troubling to you, and was Natalie right to be angered by it?

Helen's two daughters, Emily and Sarah, are very different from each other, at one point reminding Helen of polarized magnets (page 80). Helen also tells Jake that "You left the girls . . . I may not have been perfect, but I didn't take off . . . " (page 167). Do you think Helen was a good mother? Was she a better mother to Sarah than to Emily? How do you feel her daughters would respond to that question?

In Chapter 9, Helen meets Mr. Forrest, who provides her an escape from her house. What is the significance to her of the illuminated manuscripts he collects? How does this visit change her view of her own life?

When they meet, Jake is Helen's teacher, and she is his muse. What causes them to drift apart and divorce? When he returns, how has their relationship changed?

In Chapter 12, Helen's father takes her to Lambeth, where he shows her the remains of his old house. What is the significance of the plywood people? Do they mean different things to Helen and to her father? Why does he select these particular moments of his life to commemorate? And does the town having been unsuccessfully "drowned" reflect any other situations in the novel?

How did you interpret the ending of the novel? What is the best way for Helen to make amends or atone for what she did? Or is there no way for her to make things right?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 232 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(32)

4 Star

(44)

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(42)

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(67)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 233 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2010

    Almost Moon

    By far one of the strangest books I have ever read. I actually felt guilty reading it once she states she killed her mother. The story line was disappointing at best. Since I bought the book I refused to not finish it, but after reading the last page I regretted the whole experience.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2011

    I liked this quite a bit!

    I actually really enjoyed this book. I saw The Lovely Bones, then read the book and read the first chapter of this book in the back. I just had to get it. It may be because I come from a home where my grandmother was exactly like the mother in this book (A complete nut job), I can understand feeling hopeless and having nowhere to go. I'm not telling you to murder and hide the body of one of your loved ones. It's a fictional fantasy, people. You can't say you've never wished, not even in a fleeting moment, you could just kill somebody. Civilized people don't act on these thoughts, but being able to read a circumstance in a character's mind was quite interesting - the thoughts leading up to it, the murder, the inevitability of getting caught. I'd highly recommend this to someone who was similar interests, but if you're just hopping in to this author, I'd try The Lovely Bones, first.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Could not finish

    Quite disturbing, thoroughly enjoyed Lucky and Lovely Bones, but could not continue with this one

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Should have stopped with the first line

    "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." A great premise for a book as we all know people who are caring for the elderly and what a struggle that can be. I don't know anyone as strange as Helen and could not relate to her after the murder took place. I have enjoyed Sebold's other books, but was disappointed with this effort. It's too bad that a story with so much potential was just plain boring and cold. One of the worst endings to a book I have ever read.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    THE WORST BOOK THAT I HAVE EVER READ

    This was the craziest book that I have ever read. I did not like it at all. The plot was way to out there and was horrible. I would not suggest this to anyone. Alice Sebold used to be one of my favorite authors but this book makes her look like a wacko.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Day In The Life

    THE ALMOST MOON gives new meaning to "a day in the life." The entire story takes place over the course of two days, but it's really a lifetime of memories that comprise this novel. It all begins when Helen kills her mother one day. No, the novel isn't as evil, twisted, and morbid as it sounds. Her mother has Alzheimer's and, as we discover, has always been a little unstable. It's really a favor. But is it a favor to her mother or herself?

    The novel is very well written (as are Alice Sebold's other books, The Lovely Bones and Lucky). Sebold definitely knows how to write; her talent shines through. The story is told very conversationally from the viewpoint of Helen as she kills her mother and reacts to the death over the course of two days. During those two days, Helen is constantly reminded of events from her past that have led her to this point in her life. She spots something in her mother's house and it reminds her of a story from her childhood, which she readily relates to the reader. She goes to work as a nude art class model and is reminded of meeting her ex-husband. She cuts off her deceased mother's braid and she's reminded of the brushing of her hair. With these flashbacks, we learn more and more about Helen, her parents, her ex-husband, her children, the neighbors, and her relationship with each. It provides us insight into who she is and what events have shaped her life.

    Granted, I did not like Helen all that much. I thought she was self-pitying and did not take responsibility for her own actions/life. Like with most any book, at times it drags and at times it's a page-turner. And, occasionally, I would get a bit lost when Sebold was going back and forth between past and present. But these factors did not detract me from enjoying the work overall or recognizing THE ALMOST MOON as a good piece of fiction. Like I said, Sebold has a gift for writing, and I look forward to more of her novels in the future.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Intrigue but no resolution. Author creates a complicated situation that she seems not to be able to resolve - so the book just.......ends. Don't waste your money or time.

    Not worth reading.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012

    A DARE.

    Ive read this book several times in the past 2 years.. I have a difficult relationship with my mother and the way Sebold describes the mqin characters thought process, could not have been written nor described any better.. A great readifyour open minded to a not so happily ever after ending..

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing

    I love the way that Alice Sebold writes. However, this story is disturbing on many levels. Clearly, Helen has serious mental health issues, not only killing her mother, but in her actions afterward. Not at all what I expected. The ending just left me shaking my head, and made me feel pretty normal!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2009

    Th Almost Moon, By Alice Sebold

    After reading, The Almost Moon, by Alice Sebold, it was not at all what I had expected it to be, considering it is a number one national bestseller. The main character, Helen Knightly, is a 49 year old, 20 year post-divorced mother of two adult children, living in the same small town she grew up in. She cares for her elderly mother who has been isolated in her own home since Helen was a child. Helen's mother has agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). Helen does not live with her mother. Both of her children have moved away. She has apparently grown up in a very dysfunctional family however; there is little development of any of the family characters, in my opinion, in the book. Her character is sketchy with attempts to portray the novel as exploring "the complex ties within families". I think there should be more time developing the characters. Helen's father committed suicide when she was in her teens, which was not really explained to my satisfaction, leaving her to grow up in an unbearable situation (a very strange mother). She seems to be very misguided making one bad decision after another in a 24 hour period.

    The books aim, seems to be total shock value, describing scenes in depth that are macabre in great detail and leaving out necessary detail in many parts. Although the details were not always pleasant to read, it was a great visual depiction of what was happening. I think Helen was portrayed as too waffling. The reader could not really defend what she was doing because there was no depth or personality developed. It seemed as if Helen were trying to maintain a positive attitude in the midst of huge family turmoil, but did not really come across as genuine. She had no long term relationships and could not face everyday challenges, so it is difficult to determine what really motivates her. I do not think the reader (not just myself) really felt they could understand what was going on under the exterior of the character. I don't think she really had grown or learned anything throughout the story. Helen doesn't take responsibility for what she leaves behind.

    This book did make me slightly interested in finding out where Helen would go after killing her mother and how the story would end. Nonetheless, I did not like this book. Overall it was disappointing. It was a dismal read. I have not read any other books by Alice Sebold and perhaps her other books are good. I think her descriptive writing is excellent. I believe the overall theme is, can we, "ourselves" control our destiny, or do those around us control it for us? That's for you to read and discover.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    What a waste of my time!

    I was so disappointed with 'Almost Moon'. I was so looking forward to reading her newest book. Her last two books, Lucky, and Lovely Bones, opened up such wonderful discussions with friends and young adults. I don't think I could even admit I read this book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    DO NOT READ

    This was absolutely the worst book I have read in a while. The writing itself was a stream of consiousness disaster. The story line was no where near even remotely interesting and the ending does little to assuage that. As a matter of fact, it only confirms what you will already know to be a monumental waste of time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2011

    Interesting Story...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2011

    Was unable to finish

    I feel bad not finishing a book but this book was so boring I wasn't able to finish it. I was disappointed considering this author wrote The Lovely Bones which was such an amazing book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    Breathtaking

    Dark but infinitely interesting-

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2011

    HORRIBLE!

    I wish I had read the other reviews before I bought this book. I saw that it was by Alice Sebold, and since I enjoyed Lovely Bones, I decided to try it. It was the WORST BOOK I have EVER read! Disturbing from start to finish, not well written, and with a sudden, abrupt ending that resolved nothing. The only good thing is that I bought it as a bargain book so at least I didn't pay much. Don't waste your money or time!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2007

    A reviewer

    A disappointing read the entire way through... the character development was such that I really didn't care for anyone in the story. There were no great epiphanies and the ending was flat out weak.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2014

    One of the most profound stories I have ever read. Yes, it's not

    One of the most profound stories I have ever read. Yes, it's not nice to kill your mother but this story is more than that. The honesty and profound truth Seabold writes about is one in a million. Any woman who examines the pain of awakening to what has been lost in childhood trauma and then reclaiming oneself will find this book strange comfort. I loved this book and so did my husband.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    I liked it more than lovely bones

    Great Job

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    If it were possible, I would give Almost Moon a zero rating.

    If it were possible, I would give Almost Moon a zero rating. There was nothing redeemable about this book. I should have stopped reading after the opening sentences. However, I stupidly did slough through half the book, hoping the characters would become less despicable and the plot line more interesting, With every page the book became darker and more hateful. A complete waste of valuable reading time.

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