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The Moonflower Vine

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Overview

A timeless American classic rediscovered—an unforgettable saga of a heartland family

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy's fate will be the family's greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, ...

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The Moonflower Vine

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Overview

A timeless American classic rediscovered—an unforgettable saga of a heartland family

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy's fate will be the family's greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive—and, ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

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Editorial Reviews

Nora Krug
It's hard to say which is more surprising: that Jetta Carleton's The Moonflower Vine is her first novel, that it's her only published novel—or that it's essentially been forgotten…The family appears to enjoy a wholesome lifestyle in which a day might center on an excursion to smoke out honeybees or marvel at the moonflowers of the title, but yearnings lurk (though in a virtuous way; one character is seduced after reading Bible verses). Among the great pleasures of the novel is watching this chaste image unravel; the other is the writing, which captures both the beauty of the natural world and the complexities of human emotion.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061673238
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/24/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 114,016
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jetta Carleton (1913–1999) was born in Holden, Missouri, and earned a master’s degree at the University of Missouri. She worked as a schoolteacher, a radio copywriter in Kansas City, and a television advertising copywriter in New York City, and she ran a small publishing house with her husband in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Moonflower Vine is her only published novel.
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Read an Excerpt

The Moonflower Vine

Chapter One

My father had a farm on the western side of Missouri, below the river, where the Ozark Plateau levels to join the plains. This is a region cut by creeks, where high pastures rise out of wooded valleys to catch the sunlight and fall away over limestone bluffs. It is a pretty country. It does not demand your admiration, as some regions do, but seems glad for it all the same. It repays you with serenity, corn and persimmons, blackberries, black walnuts, bluegrass and wild roses. A provident land, in its modest way. The farm lay in its heart two hundred acres on a slow brown stream called Little Tebo.

The nineteenth century had not yet ended when my parents, Matthew and Callie Soames, first came to the farm. They arrived newlywedded, with a teakettle, a featherbed, and a span of mules. Later they went to live in a small town, where my father taught school. Sometimes they came back to the farm for the summer. After many years they came home to stay. They painted the house and propped up the old gray barn, bought a bull and a butane tank, and lived here the year around, as happy as if they were hale and twenty instead of a frail old pair who would not see seventy again.

My sisters and I used to visit them on the farm. We came each summer—Jessica from deep in the Ozarks, Leonie from a little town in Kansas, and I from New York, where I worked in television, then a new industry, very mysterious to my family. To me, and somewhat to my sisters, these visits were like income tax, an annual inconvenience. There were always so many other ways we could have spent the time. But, old as we were, our parents werestill the government. They levied the tribute and we paid it.

Once we got there, we were happy enough. We lapsed easily into the old ways, cracked the old jokes, fished in the creek, ate country cream and grew fat and lazy. It was a time of placid unreality. The lives we lived outside were suspended, the affairs of the world forgotten and our common blood remembered. No matter that our values differed now, that we had gone our separate ways; when we met like this on familiar ground, we enjoyed one another.

I remember particularly a summer in the early fifties. Jessica's husband and Leonie's had stayed behind that year, one was a farmer, the other a mechanic, and neither could get away at the time. Only Leonie's boy had come with her. Soames was a tall, beautiful, disconsolate child who had just turned eighteen. In a few weeks he was leaving to join the Air Force, and Leonie could hardly bear it. Once he was gone, there was so much he would have left undone, so much unsaid, that neither of them would ever again have a chance to do or say. It was a sad time for them. For the rest of us, too, especially as the war was still going on in Korea. The war itself troubled us deeply, and it gave his leaving a special gravity. We could not think of one without the other. And yet, here in deep country, remote from the outside world, it was possible, for the moment, to think of neither. There was no daily paper. Nobody bothered with the radio. The little news that came our way seemed unreal and no concern of ours. Only the planes roaring over each day from an airbase on the north reminded us of danger, and soon even they lost their menace. Their shadows slipped across the pasture and yard like the shadows of clouds, hardly more sinister. The farm was a little island in a sea of summer. And a faraway war where young men were dying troubled us less than the shooting of one old man.

This had happened close to home, a mile or two up the road. A recluse farmer named Corcoran had been shot by his only son, a poor creature recently discharged from the army. My parents found the old man the next morning, rolled under a bed like a rug in summer and left there to die. He was still, though barely, alive. They drove him twenty miles to a hospital, my mother sitting in the back seat with the old man's head in her lap.

All this had taken place just before our arrival. On our last day but one, we were still talking about it.

"Poor old thing," said my mother, "be a blessing if he could die."

"Yes, it would," said my father. "Nobody to care for him at all."

"He was a grouchy old thing, but he doesn't deserve to suffer."

"How old is he?" I said.

"He must be seventy, at least," said my mother. The way she talked, he could have been her grandfather.

"Have they caught the boy?" said Soames.

"Not yet."

"Wonder how come him to do that."

"I don't know," said my father. "Some say the old man was pretty hard on him."

"There were all kinds of tales!" my mother said. "About his daddy chainin' him in the smokehouse and all that. I never believed 'em."

"Idle gossip," said Dad. "The old man had a way of antagonizing people and they had to get back at him. He was rough and crude in his ways, but he wasn't mean."

"No, he wasn't. The boy was just odd, that's all. He wasn't quite right. I don't know how he got into the army."

"It figures." Soames grinned and got up.

"Oh, you're a sight!" Mama said, patting him on the seat of his jeans. "My goodness, we forgot to heat dishwater."

So ended the symposium on neighborhood violence. We pulled ourselves up from the table, all of us stupefied with food. We had dined on roast tenderloin, peas in pure cream, sliced green tomatoes browned in butter, and burnt-sugar cake for dessert. My mother set a country table, and dinner was at noon.

The Moonflower Vine. Copyright © by Jetta Carleton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 62 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(29)

4 Star

(20)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A WONDERFUL FIND!!!!

    As an English teacher I received several Barnes and Noble gift cards, so I used one of them to take chance on a novel I knew nothing about: "The Moonflower Vine." And am I glad that I did!! I just finished reading it about two hours ago, and I already miss the characters, the members of the Soames family that form the core of this wonderful story. This is a rare book in that you cannot put it down because the story is so interesting (and often surprising), told from the points of view of six family members, but it is also so beautifully written. The language is just lovely; in fact, I think you could take many of Jetta Carleton paragraphs and make them into a stanza of poetry. If you love great fiction, I highly recommend this book. You will love it.

    17 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Author shares intimate story of dear people who have touched her life

    In the 1950's in rural mid-west landscape, a story unfolds of a seemingly simple and idylic family. The backstory however, is anything but simple or idylic. The characters are complex. Some are even difficult to like. But some will totally captivate you. This book is well written and engaging. It is a shame that it was the only novel that Jetta Carleton wrote.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    hidden treasure!

    I accidentally happened upon this book and the cover captured my interest. Behind that beautiful cover I found a story of a simple country family as the travel through their lives. Different individuals with different dreams and hopes but their commonality was their love and respect for each other. !This was a terrific book which was so pleasant to read.The dialect is quirky and fun and the story is well developed. It was fascinating and thought provoking to view a family's journey through each of their different eyes.Time well invested!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a reprint of an early 1960s family drama that captured the essence of living in Missouri in the 1950s

    In the 1950s near Renfro, Missouri, retired teacher Matthew Soames, his wife Callie, three of their adult daughters and their one grandson gather at the family farm. Each is happy to see one another.

    The youngest daughter Mary Jo is a TV producer living in New York City; she hates to come home to the dirt of Missouri. The oldest child Jessica feels good about her life though her father feels her choices were stupid as he believes she could have been much more. The patriarch Matthew feels the world is passing him by as he wants to go beyond Missouri to see firsthand what he reads; but feels strongly he could never leave Callie behind. Though he hides his anger, Matthew believes his out of control daughter Mathy is God punishing him for his transgressions; his salvation he feels lies with her son. His other adult child Leonie is the one who most honors her parents by obeying their demands; however she loves a man her father will reject if asked. Callie is the oddity amongst the five as an illiterate who adheres strictly to late nineteenth century morality as if two world wars never occurred.

    This is a reprint of an early 1960s family drama that captured the essence of living in Missouri in the 1950s. The story line is character driven as the audience obtains mostly through Mary Jo's observations how each of the others perceive their respective lives; ironically Mary Jo has no section to call her own, but her lens cutting across the family brings her into focus. In some ways a novella collection as each member has their own chapter; THE MOONFLOWER VINE is a fascinating mid twentieth century historical tale.

    Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    The Moonflower Vine

    This book is a wonderful family saga with twists and turns and many secrets. I found myself living in the book and becoming part of the family's daily living and story. The author captures the time in which the story is set beautifully. The stories of the individual members of the family help pull the tale together and create understanding for the reader. I found myself asking for more after each character's chapter, but the author gives us just enough of a glimpse into their hearts to carry us on to the next one. I enjoyed this book tremendously and experienced laughter and tears in the journey from the first page to the last. I believe this would be a good choice for book clubs as well as the recreational reader.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2009

    and to think she wrote just one book

    This is just a fabulous book, could not put it down. Just so sorry that this writer never offered another such masterpiece.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2013

    Good read love one man

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    To below below

    Or a prophesy of Moonshine
    Not cool.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    To below

    That prophecy sounds like a poem...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    Prophecy of Twilight

    Twilght bends, but Alas<p>
    Never breaks<p>
    Through the scarlet blood she fights<p>
    She lights up the dark with her half-day, half night<p>
    Unearthly shine<p>
    Just before the Moon will shine<p>
    She prevails, victorious<p>
    Oh My<p>
    They May try to strip away that light<p>
    But She will never give up without a fight<p>
    For One<p>
    And for All<p>
    She never breaks, only bends.<p>
    A Prophecy by AmazonLeaf

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Hey hannah its bree

    Cool i love that series...book 5 is sad....&hearts

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Great read!

    Although this book started out to be a slow, ho-hum read, it quickly picked up steam and became very engrossing. I found myself reading until midnight---just one more chapter!!!! There were quite a few similarities between the book's family and mine.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Heart-warming

    I like the story of this family is told byeach member, but throughout the different stages of their lives. The characters were easy to like.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    To keep it plain and simple, I loved this book. It was a good story and well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    T

    It is an honor to be here bluestar tell me if there is cat willing to be my apprentice i also need to talk to you in my den





    Dawnlight

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Hiddenclan

    As all the clans gathered bluestar climted tto the highrock. " the clan has been very fotunate. It was a though leafbare. However staclan has blessed us. We have a new medicat, Dawnlight!"

    "Dawnlight! Dawnlight!" Called the clan.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 8, 2013

    ok

    Not as good as I expected. I was disapointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Thumbs Up

    No crime to solve, no mystery to unravel, no villains to defeat - just an enjoyable "slice of [real] life" novel where the characters are the story. Engrossing, hard to put down. Well worth the read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Should be a classic

    A satisfying and well written novel that proves no one is perfect. It was recommended to me by a friend...I would definitely recommend it to my other friends.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    an amazing read - I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

    This book reflects a family in a simple place and time and yet nothing is just as it seems to be on the surface. The characters are complex and each is held in place by a fear, a longing or an unknown flaw. I was so taken by the love and tenderness with wich the author, (Her only novel and written quite long ago as well), wrote about the characters. This is a great book for readers who enjoy a vivid and descriptive prose. The writer here is almost an artist in her descriptions of nature. I would highly recommend this novel to any book club or group.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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