The Moon Sisters: A Novel

( 22 )

Overview

This mesmerizing coming-of-age novel, with its sheen of near-magical realism, is a moving tale of family and the power of stories. 
   After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps 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 ...
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The Moon Sisters: A Novel

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Overview

This mesmerizing coming-of-age novel, with its sheen of near-magical realism, is a moving tale of family and the power of stories. 
   After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps 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 lay her spirit properly to rest.
   Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/16/2013
Walsh’s luminous second novel (after The Last Will of Moira Leahy) examines the disparate emotional and physical journeys undertaken by two sisters from the town of Tramp, W.Va., after their mother’s death. Because Olivia Moon is cursed (or, arguably, blessed) with synesthesia, a condition that causes her to taste sounds and see smells, her mother, Beth, decides to homeschool her. Beth is a dreamer who writes letters to her estranged father that she never mails and works on a fantasy story that she is afraid to finish. Olivia’s no-nonsense older sister, Jazz, is adamant about not following in their mother’s footsteps. When Beth dies from inhaling gas from a stove—whether she does so accidentally or willfully is not known—Olivia sets out on the daylong trip that her mother had planned on making, to a cranberry bog where Beth hoped to see “ghost lights” and be inspired to finish her book. Jazz secretly follows her sister and they end up joining a small group of “train hoppers” who spend their lives riding the rails. Walsh explores how the sisters’ experience of the outside world transforms their views of each other and themselves, in a book packed with invention and rich characterizations. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Wonderful…Walsh, who sets her novel in the remoter and magical regions of West Virginia, constructs a gripping story, rich in thematic texture and narrative technique.” –The Roanoke Times

A mesmerizing novel with two unique, unforgettable and interesting characters — the Moon sisters. [Walsh] explores family dynamics, love, dreams, ambition and more…If you have a sister, The Moon Sisters will probably touch you in an even deeper way, as it explores the complicated relationships between siblings, especially when parents are unstable themselves. Once you've read a novel by Walsh, you'll want to read more. She has an amazing way with language and building characters you want to get to know.” –The News-Gazette

Walsh has written a beautiful, lush novel fueled by a fairy-tale journey of grief, love, and will-o'-the-wisps. Fans of coming-of-age novels and magical realism will be drawn in and may never want to leave.” –Library Journal, starred review

Both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Moon sisters’ journey is no quixotic quest, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in their transformative search. This magical, moving tale is not to be missed.” –Booklist, starred review

Luminous… Walsh explores how the [Moon] sisters’ experience of the outside world transforms their views of each other and themselves, in a book packed with invention and rich characterizations.” –Publishers Weekly

“Their journey is…one of self-discovery and growth. Their most important lesson is nicely summed up by Jazz near the end: ‘I guess we can’t control life, or the people in it. … But we can control ourselves — right now, in this moment. That’s something. Maybe it’s everything.’” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Therese Walsh has done it again.  She is fast becoming known for delivering lush, emotional and deeply atmospheric reads that never disappoint.  Her second book, The Moon Sisters, is a magical journey of grief, hope and the power of family bonds.  It is a novel for the senses, a harmony of sounds, sights, scents and tastes, the likes of which you have never experienced before.  You won't want to miss this one.” –Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Lost Lake
 
The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh shimmers on the precipice where the grief-stricken teeter between loss and recovery, a place that often resembles madness. Sisters Olivia and Jazz battle as they hold each other tight in this touching coming of age tale that weighs family loyalty against distinctive truths. Walsh leavens magic realism with humor, balances enchantment and pragmatic truth, and stirs them into a poignant family story.” –Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters
 
“Emotionally taut and intricately woven, The Moon Sisters takes us on a dreamlike journey that is at once literal and literary. A story of family ties stretched to their limits and the underlying wound that bothbinds and breaks them. Therese Walsh has created a compelling read I couldn't put down and a world of authentic travelers who linger long beyond the final pages. A tale of true sisterhood.” –Brunonia Barry, New York Times and International bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places

The Moon Sisters is a novel to fall in love with… to break your heart over… to linger with and think about after you’ve finished the last of Walsh’s lovely, singing, heart-wrenching words. There is magic in the story and in the language itself and you’ll find yourself wanting to buy a copy for your sister, or your best friend… just so you have someone to share it with.” –M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction and The Book of Lost Fragrances

“This breezy read combines soulful mysticism, the complexities of sibling relationships, and adventure travel as two sisters search for the answers to their novelist mother’s sudden and suspicious death.” –Yoga Journal

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-06
This second novel by Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy, 2010) centers on two sisters—one with synesthesia and one with a pragmatic outlook—as they recover from the suicide of their mother. In Tramp, W.Va., 18-year-old Olivia comes home to find her mother, Beth, in the kitchen with the gas oven on and the pilot light off. Olivia refuses to believe it was suicide—after all, her mother often used the oven for heating—but no one else is deluded. How could they be when Beth Moon suffered from severe depression and anxiety for 20 years? Six months later, the family is still reeling: Their father has taken to heavy drinking, Olivia has gone partially blind from staring at the sun, and sister Jazz has found herself a job in, of all places, a funeral home. Because of a dream, Olivia wants to take her mother's ashes to the Cranberry Glades. Beth, an aspiring writer, got pregnant in college and was subsequently disowned by her father. In between bouts of depression, Beth was writing a fairy tale set in the Glade—an unfinished story about identity and forgiveness. Olivia thinks some destiny will be fulfilled if she brings her mother's ashes there and she sees the legendary will-o'-the-wisp. Jazz thinks this is all foolishness but has been helping Olivia all her life. Olivia's synesthesia (a neurological condition in which people can "see" sound and "taste" visual stimuli, etc.) has made her the dreamer, the one who lifted their mother's mood, the one prone to impulse. When their van breaks down on the way to the Glade, Olivia hops a train, and Jazz furiously follows. There, they are introduced to train culture, and Olivia meets Hobbs, a 20-year-old train hopper with a face covered in tattoos. He agrees to bring Olivia to the Cranberry Glades, but Jazz has other plans. Though Walsh creates a vivid journey for the two sisters, they both speak and act, as does Hobbs, far older than their years, resulting in a less-than-believable coming-of-age tale. An uneven mix of magic and sorrow, from a promising writer.
Library Journal
★ 03/15/2014
Walsh's second novel (after The Last Will of Moira Leahy) is a story of sisters Jazz and Olivia, who take separate but winding paths toward moving on with their lives after their mother's suicide. Jazz, older and angry, decides to plunge into a new job while Olivia, who can see sounds and taste words, runs away to the remote setting of her mother's unfinished novel. Jazz follows, determined to drag her younger sister home, only to be met with more roadblocks as Olivia attaches herself to a train-hopper who insists he can't be trusted. Tension between the siblings mounts on the way to their destination as each sister is hiding secrets about their mother. VERDICT Walsh has written a beautiful, lush novel fueled by a fairy-tale journey of grief, love, and will-o'-the-wisps. Fans of coming-of-age novels and magical realism will be drawn in and may never want to leave.—Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307461605
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 210,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Therese Walsh
THERESE WALSH is the author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and the cofounder of Writer Unboxed. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Early in the story, Babka told her granddaughter, Olivia Moon, “Dreams like feet, better than knees,” which helped set Olivia and Jazz’s journey in motion. What did she mean by that? Do all of the characters embrace this idea, or do some resist it?

2. Consider Branik’s belief that there are always two ways to look at things. When were characters made to see things in a different light? Were you, as a reader, ever surprised to find your perspective on something changing as you read, be it a character or situation? What prompted your shift?

3. Olivia’s blindness is self-inflicted. Why do you think she stared at the sun? Has Jazz limited herself in other ways? How? Do you believe that narrowing life choices is a form of self-defense?

4. What do Beth’s letters represent throughout the story? Why do you think Beth never sent them? Why do you think Jazz and Olivia similarly hid her letters from each other and the outside world? What would it have meant to let them go?

5. What do Hobbs’ coins represent? Can you draw a comparison between the letters and the coins?

6. Babka always said that the secret to life could be found in a bag of marbles. What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree? Does anyone in your family have a secret to life?

7. Some, including Olivia, might say Jazz has an obsession with death. Why do you think Jazz has a collection of obituaries in her backpack? Why does she want to work at a funeral home? Does she want to find something there, or let go of something? What is she grappling with?

8. It’s said that we unwittingly become our parents, and that our parents often coerce us into fulfilling their unrealized ambitions. Do you feel Olivia has adopted any of Beth’s old ambitions? What about Jazz? Does this make sense with Beth’s assertion that Olivia is her “old-mirror daughter,” while Jazz is a “new mirror”? Do you see “versions of self” in your family?

9. Consider the idea of atonement. Jazz felt Beth lived most of her adult life seeking atonement for the behavior that led to an estrangement from her father. Did Jazz live her life similarly? How? Is atonement a possible motivation for any of Olivia’s actions throughout the story?

10. “All of the best living happens on the edges.” What do you think Hobbs means by this? Do you agree with him?

11. While walking past the Mill Point Federal Prison, which had been an open prison, Hobbs tells Jazz that “prison is a state of mind.” Why do you think this statement stays with her for as long as it does? How is the idea relevant to her life?

12. What do the will-o’-the-wisp lights represent to Beth? What do they represent to Olivia? Is this the same or different?

13. It’s thought that will-o’-the-wisp lights, or “foolish fires,” are never attainable. What do you think? What “foolish fires” are in your own life? Do you pursue them, or watch them from afar?

14. Do you believe that Olivia succeeds in finding the lights in the end, or not?

15. How are both Olivia and Jazz altered by their journey? What do you think each of them will take away from their time together that could help them throughout the rest of their lives?

16. Olivia said that hope, to her, tasted like “a mix of berries, just a hair shy of ripe, with a drizzle of honey and another drizzle of lemon, and coffee with cream, and ice water when you hold it in your mouth until the ice melts. With a dash of salt. And maybe some mint.” If “hope” had a taste for you, what would it taste like? What would it look like? What would it sound like? Would you fight to preserve it? How far would you go in the name of hope?

17. What do you think happened to Beth? What are your thoughts on her last letter—what it said, and what became of it?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2014

    Therese Walsh has crafted a engaging and beautiful story in The

    Therese Walsh has crafted a engaging and beautiful story in The Moon Sisters. She has such a lovely way with words and characters. I honestly couldn't put this book down. This is the way of great storytelling. Buy this book! I promise you will not regret it!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2014

    This book is about two polar opposite sisters coming to terms wi

    This book is about two polar opposite sisters coming to terms with their mother's suicide in different ways. When younger, half-blind Olivia's unpredictable antics pressure her older and more stable sister Jazz to follow her around on a fool's errand, the two are forced to confront their feelings about their mother's death and each other.




    Honestly, I was so bored with this book. The pace is very slow, I didn't feel a connection to any of the characters or places, and the plot didn't interest me. Nothing resonates.




    The story is told in alternating POVs; most of the chapters begin with one of the sister's recollections about their past, and additionally there are old letters from the mother Beth. This is intended to let you get to know the characters better, but after a couple of chapters I felt like I'd learned all that I needed and these recollections were neither necessary nor interesting. They interrupted the flow of what was already a lacking story for me.




    I was also expecting more magical realism. The most magical thing about the story is the fact that Olivia has synesthesia and sees, tastes, smells all kinds of strange things.




    "Moon Sisters" is a well written but extremely dry coming of age story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2014

    I wish people would not tell the whole story when they do a revi

    I wish people would not tell the whole story when they do a review.  Why bother to read the story when they give it all away.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    An emotional journey¿a compelling read of grief, hope, and power of family bonds!

    THE MOON SISTERS is an emotional journey—a compelling read of grief, hope, and power of family bonds--the dynamics of two different sisters.

    Jazz, the older, is forward-thinking, hard, stubborn, and realistic. Whereas Olivia, the younger is totally the opposite –living in a dream world, strong-willed, yet free spirited, due to her synesthesia (a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway---a mental wiring condition which senses overlap). Think sounds, sights, scents, and tastes which will heighten and seduce you as a reader.

    After their mother’s unresolved death, Olivia and Jazz try and move on with their lives. Olivia spends her day staring at the sun; whereas, Jazz takes a job at the local funeral home and trying to settle into a boring life in Tramp, West Virginia.

    Olivia, the dreamer, sets off for Cranberry Glades with their mother's ashes, in search of the will-o-the-wisp ghost lights, to set everything right and lay her mom to rest. Jazz, tries to stop the trip before it starts. When that fails, she goes along to keep the journey on track. Their car breaks down and Olivia hops onto a train in a desperate attempt to fulfill her mother's dream. There, she meets Hobbs, a guy running away from his life, and he agrees to lead her on her quest. Jazz, determined to bring rationality, angrily pursues them.

    Each of the sisters -----hiding things from one another ---make their journey toward the acceptance of their mother’s death. However, is the journey more important than the destination?

    THE MOON SISTERS alternates between Olivia and Jazz, as we get to hear from both characters and their specific viewpoints. I thorough enjoyed the poetic descriptions, and as a nature lover, could totally relate.

    The author, Teresa Walsh did an outstanding job with the character development, skillfully creating a beautiful thought-provoking story of loss and recovery. I enjoyed the mixture of humor, magic, reality—a cross between two strong characters (controlling, versus spacey dreamer). Addressing many high-charged topics such as a mother’s love, bond of sisters, love, depression, suicide, guilt, alcoholism, homeless, runaways, and theft.

    Fans of Sarah Addison Allen (Lost Lake), Kristin Bair O'Keeffe (The Art of Floating), and Catherine Ryan Hyde (Take Me With You), will enjoy the blending of glowing language and the dreamlike magical journey through sorrow and healing.

    I highly recommend THE MOON SISTERS, as this book reminds me a little of my sister and our relationship --- we are total opposites and have already begun to see the strong differences, as our mom has been recently diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. This type of book is sometimes heartwarming as we see flawed and realistic family drama, hidden secrets, guilt and regret; however, there is always room for unconditional love and forgiveness.

    I look forward to reading more from this talented author (her master’s degree in psychology is definitely reflective throughout this emotional coming-of-age tale).

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2014

    Recommend to anyone who needs cheering up. I really enjoyed it.

    Triplets , three different personalities.and all make this a funny, enjoyable read Therese Walsh does a great job and I will be looking for more of her books .

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    Great book

    The characters are memorable, plot moves along, very well written.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    "If you live your whole life hoping and dreaming the wrong

    "If you live your whole life hoping and dreaming the wrong things, what does that mean about your whole life?"

    Beth Moon believed in one thing her entire adulthood—something that surpassed the importance of her husband, children, and self. Beth Moon was a writer, one who incorporated her dream into every word she penned, and one who penned words into every dream she dreamed. Upon recognizing the inevitable void in her entire crux of belief, she fell into a terrifying depression; and soon after, she took her own life.

    But this is not the story of Beth Moon. Not really, anyways. This is the story of Beth Moon's untimely, ill-fated death: the uncovering of and reconciliation with her past, her ailments, her baggage. This is the story of her dreams and her writing: her unsent letters and unfinished novel. Ultimately, however, this is the story of her daughters, Jazz and Olivia Moon, and more importantly: of their inheritance.

    Olivia's reality has always been bizarre, so when she decides to toss her mother's ashes into a suitcase and leave her isolated West Virginian hometown to go off to fulfill her mother's yearnings, Jazz isn't all that surprised.

    "[Olivia has] never been the poster child for sense."

    Olivia's unfaltering quest propels the clashing sisters into what begins as a risky adventure—involving traveling, train-hoppers, and the unforgiving wilderness—and ends in devastating but simultaneously uplifting family revelations that makes The Moon Sisters one of the most evocative and perceptive adult coming-of-age novels I've ever read.

    Narrated in alternating first-person voices of the two sisters, the novel elegantly embodies the suffocation and restlessness that arises from living in a small town, as well as the many faces and stages of grief. Readers follow both Jazz and Olivia's physical and emotional journeys as they lose their way, find their way, fall apart, and fall in love; with this progression, readers discover how each sister deals with her own denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, triumphantly: acceptance.

    One of the most significant questions Therese Walsh raises through both of the Moon daughters is on the worthwhileness of hoping and believing. The elusiveness of dreams—a once-comforting notion—increasingly causes both sisters distress as they reflect upon their respective childhoods and their mother's dismal reason for existence. Is it smart to hope and dream? Is it safe? Does it ever end in anything other than disappointment?

    I was impressed by how realistic Jazz, the older sister, is—so flawed and easy to sympathize with. It was difficult for me to like her because she's so uptight, so logical, but I identify with her in so many other ways. Olivia, on the other hand, is a brightly burning character—both on the pages, and off. Her way of thought is difficult to penetrate—partly due to the synesthesia, partly due to the undeveloped sense of maturity—but it doesn't make her any less distinct; she's a colorful, imaginative character who's entirely offbeat, but that much more lovable. Therese Walsh is excellent with describing the flavor of words and the appearance of sounds and the way a person can smell like the sun. As in Amaryllis in Blueberry and A Mango-Shaped Space, the author vividly creates a different kind of reality from within Olivia; the effect is subtly hallucinogenic and staggeringly poetic.

    While Hobbs, Olivia's secretive train-hopping companion, is a minor character, his relationship with Olivia smolders, ignites... intoxicates. I won't give too much away, but their slow-building rapport made me melt and shatter and want to cry. The Moon Sisters isn't explicitly a romance, but it contains overwhelming glimpses into the sheer capacity and capability of the human connection, that will desperately make you wish it was.

    Illuminated by Walsh's mesmerizing, commanding voice, The Moon Sisters reads dreamlike—magical and dizzying and airy—but still possesses the emotional weight of coping and continuing—the care, keeping, and purging of ghosts, if you will. Readers will easily identify with the firmly planted emotions regarding tortured souls, family bonds, and the weakness and resilience that comes with being human.

    Pros: Perfectly blends adventure, family drama, and personal reflection together // Exquisite style // Both sisters' points of view are equally refreshing and intriguing // Olivia and Hobbs... ugh ♥ // Story lulls in pace, but the tension makes it impossible to put down // Emotionally, powerfully reflective of the human heart and propensity to dream // Trippy, dreamlike perspectives are so well constructed

    Cons: Slow start // Didn't like how Beth Moon's letters are actually displayed. They seem much too private and were disappointing solely because it seems impossible to write them the way I imagined them

    Verdict: An intricate, intimate portrait of one young woman's quest to carry out her deceased mother's unfulfilled dream—as well as her older sister's determination to put an end to it—The Moon Sisters is a gorgeously crafted and expressive examination of the importance of sticking together as a family, maintaining fair perspective, and the harmful but necessary means of self-preservation. Offering endless discussion on topics such as the true difference between blindness and sight, the role and impact of mothers, and the dangers of the foolish fire that is hope, this would make a terrific book-club read. Therese Walsh skillfully weaves a complicated story with even more complicated roots in this glorious second novel; I love and recommend it wholeheartedly.

    Rating: 9 out of 10 hearts (5 stars(: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf.

    Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!).

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    How to put my thoughts on  page- that is the question. The Moon

    How to put my thoughts on  page- that is the question. The Moon Sisters was mesmerizing, as promised. It pulled me in quickly, then held on for the duration. Not typically a novel I would be drawn too, I was surprised that it had such a strong grip on me. Jazz and Olivia are bold and multifaceted characters. Walsh created two beautiful souls with those two girls. It has been ages since I read a book with such gorgeously strong female characters. The stunning character work didn't end there- Hobbs, a train hopper that helps the girls on their journey, was also a complex character. Rough and scary exterior with a soft heart and a deep history.
    The central part of this story is their mother, but it expands to family as the tale moves forward. Family dynamics, responsibilities, and loyalty all spring up throughout this novel. Each is enhanced by the depth of character in the novel. The five stages of grief are the section headings in The Moon Sisters- they are the only times that they are so pointedly brought up, however each stage is woven in the stories the characters tell. The subtle shifts in the way they share their stories and move through the days that this novel takes place, move them through the stages of grief and through the story.
    The adventure that the girls find themselves on- looking for hope and guidance- is remarkable. It brings out so much in their character and you can feel the girls growing as the story ebbs and flows. It makes Olivia grow up and it softens Jazz. Hobbs finds answers to his own unasked questions as well.
    I was amazed at how lyrical this novel was as well. It was magical. The novel deals with grief. I have had a very small share of grief, thankfully, at this point in my life, so I was unsure as to whether or not I would find a connection with this novel. Somewhere, I did. I'm not sure if it was Jazz and her softening, or Olivia and her growing up, but within those pages I did see a bit of myself in years past. Therese Walsh wrote a book that speaks to you- whether or not you've experienced monumental grief. I highly recommend this novel.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2014

    THE MOON SISTERS is a remarkable story of two sisters who are gr

    THE MOON SISTERS is a remarkable story of two sisters who are grieving the loss of their mother while their father is drowning his sorrow in vodka. Jazz and her younger sister Olivia can’t seem to stop battling over one thing or another – Jazz’s new job at the funeral home where their mother’s wake took place; Olivia, legally blind, determined to find an ending for their mother’s novel in remote Cranberry Glades in the mountains of West Virginia. Jazz reluctantly follows Olivia who hops a train and meets Hobbs, a tattooed young man, whom Olivia falls for, much to Jazz’s dismay. After all, they know nothing about him or his past. While trying to protect Olivia and convince her to go home, Jazz becomes as embroiled in Olivia’s struggle to find the spot where their mother believed she would find the conclusion to her life’s work.
    When I read Walsh’s debut novel THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, I was drawn in and thought I was reading one of the best novels I had ever opened. However, I was unprepared for the complexity of the storytelling in THE MOON SISTERS. This is writing at its finest! The story is woven between bits of past family history and the story of their quest for closure. It is a highly emotional read that will keep your attention from page one to the end of the book. This will surely be among the top books of 2014.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Olivia and Jazz are adult sisters, still living at home with the

    Olivia and Jazz are adult sisters, still living at home with their parents. One day, Olivia comes home to find that her mother is dead. The question that will haunt the sisters is whether their mother died accidentally or whether she committed suicide. The gas on the stove was on, the pilot light out, the windows and doors closed.
    Their father is lost in his grief, unable to help his daughters through theirs. Their father's mother, Babka, owns a bakery, where their dad works. Olivia has synesthesia, which is defined as "the stimulation of a sense other than the one receiving input; sensory areas with faulty wiring." She could smell sights- "Papa was fresh grass, the sun was Mama"-, and taste words- Mama's freckles "tasted like togetherness".  She could see sounds- "Babka's voice looked like a tumble of soft flour."
    Olivia feels guilty that her mother died while she was off with a young man. Olivia had been home schooled by her mother, and they spent much of their time together. She felt like she should have seen that her mother was depressed.
    And so Olivia gets it into her head that she should take her mother's ashes and scatter them in a bog where her mother had set a novel she was working on at the time of her death. The truth was, her mother had been working on this book for a very long time, but never made much progress.
    As Olivia was legally blind (she looked into the sun too long and it blinded her), she couldn't drive to the bog to scatter the ashes. Jazz, who was set to start a new job at the funeral home where her mother had her services, felt forced to follow Olivia and take her to the bog.
    Their car breaks down, and Olivia ends up with a group of train hoppers on a train, not knowing that Jazz has also hopped the train looking for her. Olivia falls for one of the hoppers, Hobbs, a mysterious man with markings all over his face and another man on his tail.
    There are magical elements to this story, and some ghost stories, which I did not know are ubiquitous in West Virginia, where the story takes place. Along with the questions surrounding Mama's death, we have the mystery of why Hobbs is being followed by Red, a man who appears to be a bounty hunter.
    The story is told alternately by Olivia and Jazz, and interspersed in the story are letters written by Mama to her father, a man who disowned his daughter and cut off all contact with her. Her letters are heartbreaking, and we get to know Beth (Mama) through these letters, as well as through Olivia and Jazz.
    The sisterly relationship is the heart of the book, and Walsh really nails it. The sibling rivalry, the way they fight with and protect each other and argue and love each other will feel so real to anyone who has a sister. 
    The writing is poetic, and I loved what Babka told Olivia when Olivia told her about a dream she had- "Dreams like feet better than knees". What a fantastic thing to say, and it comes up more than once in this magical, haunting novel.
    Another line I liked was said about Hobbs by one of the female train hoppers- "Too bad his walls are so high up, and I'm such a lazy climber." You get the character of Hobbs right away from just that one line.  
    But what Mama said really puts the point on this book: "All of life's twist and turns might be analyzed at some later date, shown to be necessary in order to arrive at some other point in the future- a point that would end up being important in a life." She believed that fate would put you wherever you needed to be.
    There are some real twist and turns in the story that will knock the breath out you as you read them, and I did not see one big one coming that just made me sob. Walsh puts you through the ringer and it is an emotional ride well worth taking.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    THE MOON SISTERS, by Therese Walsh, is a great story, well told,

    THE MOON SISTERS, by Therese Walsh, is a great story, well told, with grief, and biscuits, and tattoos. It is the story of two young women, Olivia and Jazz, who've lost their mother. On the heels of her death, they are unanchored from their place inside the world, their sense of home and all its easy truths. Olivia, the dreamer, sets off for Cranberry Glades with their mother's ashes, in search of the will-o-the-wisp ghost lights that could set everything to rights. Jazz, her more practical sister, tries to stop the trip before it starts. When that fails, she goes along to keep the journey inside the boundaries of sense and self-control.

    But it's not that kind of trip. The path these sisters take is hard and wild and ragged. Along the way, Olivia and Jazz fight like demons -- and hold to each other like salvation. This is a novel about grief and persistence, about dreams gone awry and dreams that must be followed to the end. It is a tale both lyrical and biting, moving through the swell and ebb of loss and mourning. It is not an easy trip, and the end is anything but predictable.

    Like the journey itself, Walsh's characters are complex and satisfying. From a half-blind synesthete to a train-hopping tattoo-boy, they are freshly inked, unique. At the same time, they are utterly familiar, a mirror held to the best (and craziest) parts of any family. You've never met these girls before but, already, you know them. Their voices resonate off the page. Olivia, the synesthete, thinks that "what-ifs . . . tasted an awful lot like cheese from a can." While Jazz believes that, "Some things were meant to fly, and others were bound by their roots." Together, these two very different voices come alive inside the journey, with all its twists, its bogs and turns and heavy secrets.

    As the girls travel towards Cranberry Glades, they move back and forth in time, in memories and letters and in imagination. Several generations come together with repeated themes and questions. What defines a good life? Are all dreams worthy ventures? And what is the cost, the ultimate cost, of letting go? At the end of the path, there are no easy, Disney-patterned answers. There are no tidy resolutions. THE MOON SISTERS is a journey with both wings and roots, one that left me someplace else from where I started. It's a trip in every sense, a place to lose yourself, to hop a train, to lose your sight and fall . . . and then? And then, get up, again, of course. Get up and keep on walking, eyes wide, in spite of blindness. This is a book I will not forget, and one that will not leave me.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Set in small town/rural West Virginia, sisters Olivia and Jazz M

    Set in small town/rural West Virginia, sisters Olivia and Jazz Moon journey in search of a will o' the wisp, and
    perhaps, answers to their mother's apparent suicide.

    Disclaimer #1: I received a free copy of this novel via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Disclaimer #2:
    I "know" the author, via FaceBook, and through participation in the WriterUnboxed group there, and on the WU
    main website.

    Like a will o' the wisp, this novel is hard to pin down. There are many enchanting themes and ideas here: Olivia's
    synethesia, a condition in which the senses blend, so that sounds are also seen, sights are also tasted, and so
    on. There's the writer's journey/struggle, experienced through memories and letters left by their mother, Beth,
    who seemed to also be dealing with Depression and deep hurt from her own family of origin. There's disability,
    because Olivia has deliberately damaged her eyesight and so is legally blind, partially sighted. There's dealing
    with grief and self-blame in the wake of Beth's death; there's train-hopping and a bit of romance, a tattooed man
    and a bounty hunter, an unfinished fairy tale, a scenic tour of West Virginia and the bogs...

    Much of this novel I loved. The descriptions in Olivia's voice were especially lyrical and lovely: "There was a sort o
    f comfort to having him nearby, this green-eyed boy with a voice that curved like a hammock, that made me want
    to crawl right into it and lie down."

    However, the pacing felt slow, despite an ostensibly ticking clock in the form of a job that Jazz had to get back to
    (which I never really understood her compulsion to take that particular job, at that time), and I didn't feel I KNEW
    Jazz as well as I knew Olivia, or even Beth, the dead mother.

    There IS some sex, but not often, and it's not particularly explicit or erotic. The level of (non)detail here works well
    with the language and style of this novel.

    The last 20% or so was much faster paced and kept me turning pages, much of it being a surprise and yet
    well-set up, so that the ending felt very satisfying. I love when books do that. All in all, a very GoodRead. :)

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    I read and loved The Last Will of Moira Leahy shortly before I t

    I read and loved The Last Will of Moira Leahy shortly before I took a trip to Rome back in 2010. Loved it enough that I spent half a day in Italy hunting down the Mouth of Truth, which played a part in the novel. If you don’t know what the Mouth of Truth is, here is a photo of my daughter beside a much smaller version.




    Since then I’ve come to know Therese Walsh through Facebook and the incredible blog Writer Unboxed, and have been privy to a few of the trials and tribulations that took place while she wrote The Moon Sisters. It’s a far more personal novel than her last, and I believe that it’s no accident Walsh chose a condition like synesthesia to bestow on her character, Olivia. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where senses overlap, allowing a person to hear color, for example, or taste words. It would be impossible to write from that viewpoint without taking all perceptions of how the world worked, tossing them out, and starting over. 




    Walsh’s terrifying health scare during the writing process lends an even deeper poignancy to an already mystical novel. The Moon Sisters is lush and literary, a feast for senses. It left me questioning how different life would be if I trusted my instinct half as much as my eyes, and forced me to confront some of my own prejudices. This was both unsettling and cathartic. 




    I foresee many women reading The Moon Sisters and passing it on to their sisters, their mothers, and their closest friends. 




    Highly recommended

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    Moving Story about 2 sisters looking for answers about themselve

    Moving Story about 2 sisters looking for answers about themselves and their family!

    4.25 STARS

    MY THOUGHTS

    This is the story of two sisters. Two very different sisters. Jazz is 22 and the only 'normal' person in her family. Olivia is 18 and a dreamer. She has 'Synesthesia' - she can see and smell and taste colors and sounds and people...

    After their mother died - everybody thinks it was suicide - Olivia wants to take her ashes to the Cranberry bogs to see the ghost-lights. That's where her mother's unfinished novel was set. But her mother never went to see the place. She rarely went out of the house at all.

    Their dad and grandma 'force' Jazz to drive Olivia to the Bogs - Olivia is legally blind - she lost her central vision after staring at the sun too long after her mother died. Because to her - her mother had always smelled like sunshine.

    When the car brakes down and Jazz is trying to get the mechanic to fix it - Olivia runs off and jumps on a train - where she meets Hobbs. A tattooed train-hopper who tells her she shouldn't trust him because he's a stranger on a train and a thief. But she convinces him to help her find the ghost-lights.

    Jazz joins them in the end and go to find the ghost-lights.

    Between the chapters - which are alternately written from both girls' POV - we read letters from their mom to their grandpa. Who disowned her when she got pregnant with Jazz.

    And we also learn a lot about their life at home - life with their mom.

    Will they eventually get to the Bogs and see the lights? Will there be a happy end?

    >>>> I'm not telling you, of course ¿

    I don't want to spoil your reading pleasure ¿
    ______________________________________

    I really enjoyed reading the book. It was interesting.

    Not my kind of book unfortunately. I prefer those fast-reading simple romances where you don't have to think too much ¿

    This was a lot deeper. Lots of pain and regret and love and hope and dreams.

    Jazz tries to be there for her sister - because her mother would expect it of her. Olivia just wants to see the ghost lights - she wants so much more - but that was too deep for me probably ¿ I couldn't really force myself to think too much about the book. I read it - raced through some parts I have to admit. And once I was finished - that was it.

    BUT - I also have to admit that I cried a bit ¿

    It's a really wonderfully written novel about 2 girls that need some kind of closure - because their mother was a very sad and depressed woman...

    After her death the family kind of fell apart - Dad started drinking - Olivia stared into the sun and is halfblind now. And I think this little trip is helping those 2 sisters to heal and to find themselves and each other again.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2014

    Heartfelt Story of Love and Acceptance

    Moon Sisters follows the journey of two sisters in the aftermath of their mother's suicide, each dealing with guilt but in two very different ways.

    It is a heartfelt story of family and acceptance, focusing on the complexity of the relationship between the two sisters.

    - Jennifer McArdle, Author of Water's Edge

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    Really enjoyed this!

    I really enjoyed this book. I don't want to give any plot spoilers away but it kept my interest throughout. And I found myself recommending it to friends.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A hauntingly beautiful novel. The Moons Sisters is an adventure

    A hauntingly beautiful novel. The Moons Sisters is an adventure in grief. On one hand we have Olivia who was very close to her mother, her mother was her center and she is very much aware of her loss. Needing something more, some magical good-bye, she heads out to find find it. While her sister Jazz is licking her wounds in private, filled with regrets and confusion over her loss to a mother she was not close to. As Olivia takes off on her adventure, Jazz is pressured to yet again be her sisters keeper-a job she doesn't want.




    I was captivated by The Moon Sisters. The struggle with the loss, the grief for their mother--a mother who may have actually chosen to leave them. Their pain haunted me, I knew it too well. As a daughter who has lost her mother and as a sister I related on different levels to both young women. Nothing can tear sisters apart and bring them together like the loss of a mother, a woman's center. Grief exposes us to our core, makes us raw.




    A breathtakingly beautiful story of two sisters trying desperately to find a way to live in a world their mother is no longer a part of. Olivia is a story of a daughter's devotion, Jazz is a story of a daughter's rebellion. Will Olivia's quest tear them apart? Can they find themselves? Find each other? Can they say goodbye?




    As I closed The Moon Sisters and wiped tears from my eyes, I wanted nothing more than to hug my sister. I will not soon forget this novel. Highly recommending.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2014

    MOONSTAR TO NIGHTFALL

    Are you here? We need you!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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