Light of the Moon

Light of the Moon

by Luanne Rice

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553589757
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/30/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 370,229
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-five novels, most recently Light of the Moon, What Matters Most, The Edge of Winter, Sandcastles, Summer of Roses, Summer’s Child, Silver Bells, and Beach Girls. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Date of Birth:

September 25, 1955

Place of Birth:

New Britain, CT

Read an Excerpt


Five Years Later

Air France 321, scheduled to leave Boston's Logan Airport at 7:50 that night, was full. Susannah Connolly sat in seat 22A; she had her tray table stowed, seat in the upright position, and carry-on bag tucked under the seat in front of her. She'd slipped her passport into her jacket pocket, and at this very moment, she was missing a surprise party—hers.

Her seat belt was tightly buckled. She had the window seat, and two strangers—a couple, whispering comfortably to each other—had the middle and aisle. She had a novel, a magazine, and a guidebook to read. She hoped the party guests were enjoying champagne and birthday cake. She couldn't think of many things she felt less equipped to do than pretend to be having fun at her own surprise party.

Every seat on the plane was taken. The captain's voice crackled over the loudspeaker, telling them they were third in line for takeoff. His French accent was soft, alluring, and sexy, but she barely noticed.

Staring out the window, she felt the plane begin to move, its wheels bumping slowly along the accessway. Susannah traveled a lot. Her passport had been stamped so often, the customs officials had to search for a clean page. Work had taken her away from home a hundred times in the last few years. But this was different—brand new territory: this was a journey for herself, to connect with her mother.

Her mother . . . Although she had died six months earlier, it still didn't seem real.

Susannah was a cultural anthropologist, on the fast track in a competitive field. She taught at Connecticut College, but this was a sabbatical year. Her specialty was cave paintings—specifically those with a spiritual bent—with a concentration on horse illustrations. Cave dwellers had looked to the sun, the sea, the great bear, the forest deer, the blue whale, the wild horse. They'd created saints before the birth of the church, and she'd always been impressed and moved by the inspiration they'd found in the world around them.

Susannah had traveled the world to crawl, wriggle, dive, and spelunk into the planet's deepest, most hidden crevasses—dark, usually slimy, frequently precarious holes, where other humans had gone before, to leave messages, stories, splashes of hope, despair, and beauty.

She had crawled deeper into caves than anyone else would dare to go. She'd lie on her stomach, inching forward as the rock walls closed in on her, fighting claustrophobia, knowing that if only she made it a few feet farther, she'd be rewarded with the sight of something no one had seen in thousands of years.

Ian had seemed to understand. He'd often traveled with her, but rarely entered the caves; he'd wait outside, review the data she sent back via the miracle of fiber optics. He'd had a phobia of being trapped, and no matter how hard he'd fought it, he couldn't overcome the fear—but it hadn't mattered; his analysis of the images had been without peer.

Susannah had met him when they were both grad students at Yale. They'd started out studying together; they took the same classes, had the same professors. The work was hard, so they encouraged each other. Susannah would get lost in her research, the love of her subject matter, and Ian would remind her to apply for grants, submit her work to journals.

Once they were studying in his room, and Susannah fell asleep on his bed. It was December, just before break, and an icy draft was coming through the old windows. She woke up to find him curled beside her, and she pressed against him for warmth. They lay there for a long time, and then he began to kiss her.

His arms were around her. She felt so cold and tired, and she knew she should stop him. But he stroked her hair, and whispered that he'd been feeling this way for so long. Susannah let him hold her, shivering in the cold. Her father had died not long before, and she'd buried herself in work, and she felt starved for closeness.

Susannah remembered that moment so well—the instant they'd gone from good friends and work partners to something confusing. They studied so well together, balanced each other out. She delved deeply into the raw subject matter, and he organized the material. They worked separately on their own dissertations, but coauthored several papers published in journals. Ian never missed a chance to publish. . . .

Ian gave her jade earrings for Christmas, red roses for Valentine's Day. Susannah had felt herself becoming part of a couple—almost by accident. She had so much in common with Ian. He was always there. Curious about her work, involved in her research, interested in her discoveries, sympathetic when they found her mother had lymphoma.

But was this love? He began talking about what they'd do after leaving Yale. There seemed to be an assumption that they'd be making decisions together. And since he had his mind set on Stanford, Susannah felt herself being pulled to the West Coast. She'd resisted at the time—told Ian she wanted to accept a position at Connecticut College.

He hadn't understood, but he also hadn't given up. Although they'd made their academic homes on opposite coasts, Ian kept trying to convince her they should be together. Years went by; they both advanced, working together on projects when they could. He kept up his campaign, telling her they already knew each other so well; they were passionate about the same field; and he'd spoken with the publisher of an academic press, who thought the idea of a couple visiting sites together could make a wonderful series of books.

Susannah's mother had tried not to laugh when she told her.

"Oh, darling," Susannah's mother said. "How romantic . . . he's courting you with a book deal!"

"Mom," Susannah had warned.

Margaret Connolly chuckled. She was thin and pale, her skin yellowed from the disease and treatment. But her eyes were as bright and blue as ever.

"Sweetheart, tell me your hopes and dreams . . ."

"About what, Mom?"

"About everything."

They were sitting in the oncologist's office on Temple Street, waiting for Margaret Connolly to be seen. Her lymphoma had come back. It had been in remission for years, but now it had returned and spread. Susannah sat by her side, waiting to hear the results of the latest radiation treatments. At that moment, she wanted never to leave Connecticut again. She wanted to be with her mother every second she had left.

"My hopes and dreams? To plant a garden, to walk on the beach, to ride again . . . on a beautiful white horse . . ."

"Those are mine, too," her mother whispered.

"We'll do them together," Susannah said.

"Okay," her mother said, smiling. "Maybe we'll finally take that trip together . . ."

"The Camargue!" Susannah exclaimed. "To see Sarah! Could we? Do you really think . . ."

Her mother just looked over, her gaze full of love and sadness.

"No," Susannah said, answering her own question. "No, we'll stay home instead. We'll garden, and walk on the beach . . ."

Her mother shook her head. "No, Susannah . . . that's not how it will be."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that you're not going to stay home and wait. . . . I want you to take that trip."

"Mom. Not without you."

"Yes, sweetheart. And others, too. Your work takes you where you need to be, and that's how I want it."

"Not now, though," Susannah said. "I should cancel everything. Lascaux, Istanbul . . ."

"Listen to me. You're the best daughter anyone's ever had. I know you'd do anything you could to make me well. You'd find a cure for cancer if you could, and I know that. But that's not your work . . ."

"Work doesn't matter now," Susannah whispered.

"Yes," her mother said, nodding. "It does. Life's work matters so much. It's the distillation of who you are, what you believe. You care about the past, because you love everything and everyone, and you want to learn all there is to know."

"You taught me to be that way."

"I tried," her mother said. "Your father and I both did. And we're so proud of who you've become. So don't hold back now, Susannah. . . . Go see Sarah."

"Maybe Ian and I should—"

"Not Ian," her mother said, her voice surprisingly sharp.

Susannah looked deeply into her mother's blue eyes.

"You think Ian is as passionate about anthropology as you are," her mother said. "But he's not. He's ambitious, darling. There's a difference."

If Susannah hadn't already known that, her mother's words might not have rung so true. The more Ian pushed, the more Susannah pulled back. And then early last fall, on a trip to Lascaux, he'd unexpectedly arrived and surprised her with a question. Susannah sat back in her seat, eyes closed, remembering it now.

He'd planned so well; he'd known how excited she'd be after exploring a new chamber, seeing cave paintings she'd never seen before. And he knew, too, how worried she was about her mother. Susannah had continued her work, her travels, because her mother insisted. But her entire spirit was pulled home, every minute. She felt ripped in half.

Susannah walked out of the cave, and Ian caught her in his arms. She was sweaty, covered with dirt, but he didn't seem to care. He held her, listening to her describe the delicate drawings, the subtle colors. She'd seen images of a mother and children, close by the fire, and tears streamed down her cheeks as she thought of her own mother.

"Those drawings," he said, "are our future."

"Our what?"

"You'll document them, I'll get everything ready for the publisher. We're a team, Susannah. You don't want to come to Stanford—fine. We'll go somewhere else, but we'll do it together. It just makes so much sense. . . ."

"Ian . . ." She wanted to ask him: Weren't you listening to me? But she held the words inside. He just kept talking, making his plans, and she stood there, rocked by the beautiful, ancient paintings of a mother and her family.

"What's wrong?" he asked, finally noticing her tears.

"I'm just thinking of my mother," she said.

He stood there, silent for a moment. She suddenly felt overwhelmed. She wanted him to hold her tight, understand the grief she felt—knowing her mother's illness was advancing, and there was nothing they could do.

"You're so sad," he said.

"I am," she'd whispered. Something about the cave, the earth, the almost eternal quality of the paintings, had made the idea of losing her mother all the more vivid.

"Susannah, maybe if you rethought your priorities . . . made other choices . . ."

"What are you talking about?"

"Taking time for the people you love. Relationships," Ian said, "take work. Even now, with your mother dying, it was your choice to come here . . . "

"God, stop!"

"I want us to be together," he said. "Really together. Working, traveling . . ."

She stared, in shock.

"Will you marry me, Susannah?"

"Oh, Ian . . ." She felt her eyes flood again. He knew by her non-answer what her true answer was. They stared at each other for a long moment. Susannah's face was streaked with dirt and tears. Ian looked immaculate, as always.

"You're making the wrong choice," he said, and it sounded like a warning. "But then, I've watched you do that for years."

Sitting on the plane, Susannah thought of Ian. He was for the most part gone from her life now—she'd told him she needed a break, and although he'd made some recent overtures, they hadn't seen each other since then. But his words haunted her.

After fighting the cancer so hard for so long, her mother had died. Susannah had been in Istanbul. She'd rushed back from the Pavan Caves, but she'd been too late. And now in April, half a year later, it was Susannah's birthday, the first without her mother, and she'd known it was finally time to take that trip. . . .

"Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff," the pilot said in French.

The cabin lights dimmed. The big jet began to lumber down the runway. Slow, faster, gathering speed. The engines droned and roared. Susannah's seat shook slightly. The plane rose.

When she'd lost her mother, she'd lost her cheering section. She could hear her mother's voice; after returning home from Lascaux, Susannah had told her what he'd said, and her mother had replied, eyes flashing, "Ian doesn't know us, sweetheart. How could he even try to make you feel guilty? You don't, do you?"

"He said it was my choice . . . to go to France, instead of staying with you."

"What does he know? Besides, he's not your true love."

"What if he is?" Susannah had asked.

Her mother had smiled, taken her hand. "If he was, you'd know it by now."

"I hope you're right."

"You'll feel it—with someone else, when the time is right," her mother had said. "It will have nothing to do with your head, so stop thinking about it. You'll feel it in your heart."

As the plane gained altitude, nose pointing into the sky, Susannah's back pressed into the seat. She stared out the window, gazing down through the darkness at the beautiful yellow lights painting New England, highways straight and roads winding, neighborhoods hugging the coastline, the great black expanse of the North Atlantic stretching out beneath them in never-ending waves as the plane flew on and left the eastern seaboard of the United States—and her surprise party back in Black Hall—far behind.

With her mother gone, Connecticut seemed cold and empty. Susannah had missed the chance to say goodbye. But there was another place, where Susannah knew she could find her mother's spirit. . . . They had always talked of going there together, but then it was too late. Before her death, Margaret Connolly had made her only child promise to make the trip herself. Until now, that promise had never been kept.

Flying east, Susannah thought of her mother, and slept.

Hours later, after landing in Paris and connecting to Arles, Susannah drove out of the rental car lot, both hands on the wheel. Black parasol pines and olive trees, leaves pale green and silvery, lined the sides of the road.

Arles was a canvas by van Gogh: wild colors everywhere. Terracotta terraces, ochre and sepia walls, houses the color of sunflowers, the shadowed black arches of the Arènes. It was a celebratory city, light exploding from the river's surface and reflecting in bright shimmers on ancient Roman walls, markets alive with produce and flowers so beautiful they might have been painted by Vincent himself. Susannah bought a fresh almond croissant from the boulangerie; passing a market stall selling brightly colored silks and other fabrics, she stopped. On a whim, she bought herself a birthday present: a red hair ribbon.

Reading Group Guide

Intending to delve deep into her family’s history, honoring her mother’s last wish, Susannah Connelly leaves her home in Connecticut and travels to the fabled Camargue region of France. In this astonishingly beautiful and mystical place, where sunlight exposes the power of nature, and the light of the moon creates shadow, mystery and excitement, she unexpectedly finds love with an American expatriate horse rancher, Grey Dempsey. Yet old secrets swirl within the fog-shrouded landscape. And Sari, Grey’s teenage daughter, cannot forget a terrible night five years earlier that left her injured and unable to trust again. Before they can truly move forward, the three must each confront the past and go back to that night to find a way to forgiveness and healing.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Luanne Rice’s Light of the Moon. We hope they will enrich your experience of this captivating novel.

1. Discuss your reaction to the opening scene described in the prologue. How do the events of that night establish an overall tone? In what ways does your opinion of what happened change by the end of the novel?

2. What is your first impression of Susannah Connolly? How do you see her relationship with Ian and what does that imply about Susannah’s understanding of herself in the initial scenes?

3. Describe the significance of horses and horsemanship throughout the novel. How does it relate to Susannah’s and Sari’s lives? What role does the imagery of the white horses play in the lives of the other main characters?

4. How does the title, Light of the Moon, play out as the novel’s plot unfolds? In what ways does the image of the moon's light relate to Sari, Susannah, and Maria specifically?

5. Discuss the relevance of the story of the peasant saint Sarah as it relates to both Susannah and Sari.

6. What characteristics differentiate Ian and Grey? Discuss the different impact each man has on Susannah. How does her motivation for wanting to be with Grey differ from her reasons for being with Ian?

7. How do cultural differences and heritage influence the interactions between characters? Discuss Sari’s essence as half-Romany, half-American and the effect it has on her personal life.

8. Discuss the theme of womanhood and motherhood as represented by the Sarah circle. Why does Susannah, an outsider and virtual stranger to the Manouche Gypsies, gain access to such a sacred, hidden community?

9. What role does memory play throughout the novel? How does each character’s perception of the past shape their present?

10. Sari’s color-blindness is a frequent topic of discussion and debate in the novel. In what ways does her condition limit her? Discuss the night visit with Laurent to the city of Avignon and what it says about both characters.

11. How would you describe the relationship between Laurent and Sari? Does it mirror any other relationships in the novel? How does the tone shift between the two of them throughout the chapters?

12. Which of the novel’s locales captured your imagination the most?

13. In what ways is Light of the Moon a novel about second chances and redemption? Discuss this theme as it relates to the lives of Susannah, Grey, Sari, and Maria.

14. Discuss the significance of profession and location in the lives of characters. How does each one’s job and surroundings help to define them as a person, shape their outlook, and influence their lives?

15. The night Sari catches Grey and Susannah in each other’s arms brings on a flood of memories and emotions that undoes all progress Sari has made. Does this scene echo the prologue, or are there significant differences?

16. Discuss the impact of familial obligation and history on all the characters involved in the final reunion in the ending. What are your final impressions of the structure and importance of family? What new perspectives on life and love do the relationships described in Light of the Moon impart to you as a reader?

17. What themes regarding healing and hope are woven into this and other books by Luanne Rice?


Intending to delve deep into her family’s history, honoring her mother’s last wish, Susannah Connelly leaves her home in Connecticut and travels to the fabled Camargue region of France. In this astonishingly beautiful and mystical place, where sunlight exposes the power of nature, and the light of the moon creates shadow, mystery and excitement, she unexpectedly finds love with an American expatriate horse rancher, Grey Dempsey. Yet old secrets swirl within the fog-shrouded landscape. And Sari, Grey’s teenage daughter, cannot forget a terrible night five years earlier that left her injured and unable to trust again. Before they can truly move forward, the three must each confront the past and go back to that night to find a way to forgiveness and healing.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Luanne Rice’s Light of the Moon. We hope they will enrich your experience of this captivating novel.

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Light of the Moon 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are many forms of love. Love between lovers, friends, but the love that we often fail to think of/appreciate, that builds and defines who we are is the love between family, especially between a mother and a child. Light of the Moon by Luanne Rice revolves around this special kind of love. It is an appreciation of the woman who’s raised and supported us throughout our lives. Set in the mysterious French Camargue, Light of the Moon delves into Gypsy (Romany) culture and shows us what women really are capable of. Susannah Connolly, an accomplished anthropologist hits a wall in her life after the death of her mother. She carries with her the guilt that she wasn’t there for her in her last moments. Trying to recover any connection she has left, she travels to Stes.-Maries-de-la-Mer in southern France to visit Sara-la-Kali the Gypsy Saint her mother held in a special place in her heart. At this time there’s another person, a young girl who grieves the loss of her own mother but for a very different reason. Sari, half Romany and half American, is colorblind after she fell off her horse chasing after her mother. The woman who rejected her and ran away with her Romany lover. Grey Dempsey, her American father is also at a loss. He’s devoted to a scarred, color blind daughter who purposely tries to drive away any woman who gets too close to her. It’s with these heavy hearts that Grey meets Susannah in the marshland upon one of the Carmague’s infamous white horses. Susannah, as she becomes more involved with Grey and Sara finds new connections to her own mother. Eventually using her new found strength to heal Sari’s heart and reuniting Sari with her mother who’s always longed for her. Rice in this novel teaches us the universal lesson that no matter what, a mother’s love will never die. Through the trials that Susannah goes through to rediscover who she is and heal her and Sari’s heart, we also learn that during tough times, sometimes the most we can do is believe in our own inner strength. The part I liked most about the book was Rice’s skillful incorporation of the unique Romany culture and its focus on woman. Susannah during her time of need meets the Sara circle, a group of devoted women who like most Romany’s, have roamed all over Europe. Sara their protector, their guider, brought them together each with their own story of hardship and loss to find comfort in each other’s presence. The one thing I disliked was how much history it dealt with. Since Susannah is an anthropologist, each place and cultural symbol had its own explanation. So much so that after a while some parts became extremely long and tedious. This book is still a definite must read for all audiences teaching us that sometimes it’s better not to question. Just follow your heart. Light of the Moon is truly a beautiful, inspirational work about something that we all need in our lives: a mother’s love.
walljay816 More than 1 year ago
Awesome!!! I totally recomend this bokk to all and Its great!!!!!
ANHSVan More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. It was interesting, characters were believable and sympathetic, story line was beautifully told, etc.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutly loved this book. Wile I was reading it I felt as if I was the person speaking or talking. I felt the love that Suzannah and Grey felt for eachother and the pain of Sari. I love horses very much and I hope I can ride a white horses by the Light Of The Moon some day.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Anthropologist Susannah Connolly made a promise to her late mother that she would travel from her Connecticut home to South France to visit the Romany holy statue of Sarah her mom swore the statue enabled her to conceive her only offspring. Although feeling guilty for not being there when her mother died as she was too busy working, Susannah puts off going to Carmargue for several years until her adviser Professor Helen Oakes coaxes her to carry out her commitment. Meanwhile her former lover and colleague Ian Stewart follows Susannah to France where he tries to convince her to marry him, but she has big doubts. In trouble in a marsh French horse rancher Grey Dempsey saves Susannah¿s life. They are immediately attracted to one another, but he has doubts about a relationship with the American as his wife dumped him five years ago. This is an interesting contemporary romance in which the American is actually trying to connect with her maternal roots. The story line is at its best when Susannah encounters the Romany as that brings a special freshness to the story. Although Ian is an unnecessary boorish distracter, fans of Luanne Rice will enjoy her fine tale of a woman seeking her heritage, but also finding love.----------- Harriet Klausner
sharlene_w on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is the first book I have read by Luanne Rice and I was pleasantly surprised. Initially, I was afraid it was just your typical romance story with all of the predictable scenes. Rice spun a wonderful tale with lots of interesting material about the history of the French Camargue, tying in gypsies, curses, white horses, a mother's dying wish, a family torn apart, and on top of that, romance. I especially enjoy it when I feel like I have learned something after I read a book.
punxsygal on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is another Rice charmer set in a particularly interesting locale. Anthropologist Susannah Connolly has traveled to the Camargue region of France to fulfill her mother¿s dying wish. Camargue is home to the Romany. Driving into the region, Susannah parks by the side of the road and steps out into the mist hoping for a glimpse of the famed white horses. Instead she finds herself surrounded by the black bulls that roam the region. As fear sets in, Grey Dempsey rides up on a white horse, holds out a hand and pulls her up out of harm¿s way. Thus starts the story of a romance, of a miracle, of trying to bring the colors of joy rather than the gray shadows of despair to a young girl, the legend of the Three Marys and of the horses that have roamed the region for thousands of years. When I finished the book I found myself compelled to read further of the Camargue, the Romany and the white horses.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Feeling adrift in the wake of her mother's death, anthropologist Susannah Connolly travels to the French Camargue to investigate a saint linked to her family's history, but her life is changed by an encounter with a lonely man and his wounded daughter.Rice captures the reader's emotions on many fronts...the breathtaking beauty of the French Camargue, the heartbreak of Sari's disability and grief over the loss of her mother, the love between Grey and Susannah and Susannah's own grief and guilt over her mother's death. This one was hard to put down.
loubigfish on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Very involved and very likeable characters. The story of a woman and her companion and how to find the right one.. very real and very interesting. Meaningful and heartfelt. The author brings in the mother and then her friends and some other mysterious other events. I enjoy the story with the horses.
jlouise77 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really liked this book!! I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the story! Best romance/chick book I have read in a lonnng time! The story line was just magical, both literally and figuratively. I would highly recommend this book. It was a very quick read without being simplistic. I also love the substory of the little girl. I would very much like to see another book about the little girl grown up, I want to know what happened to her. I would say that the ending was predictable, but really, most books are, arent they?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good story covering varied subjects: gypsies, the white horses, locations here and in Europe, circus people, etc., etc. I found it very interesting and enjoyed the weave of the story line.
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b1taksas More than 1 year ago
Susannah Connelly is an anthropologist morning over the loss of her mother. As she is constantly is reminded of the loss of her mother, she remembers the promise she made to her about the trip to the Camargue area of France. On her birthday, she set off on this vacation and right off the bat; she gets chased by wild bulls, but was saved by a local rancher on a white horse. Being in this magical area will mix up many emotional feeling Susannah may have regarding her life, her mother¿s death, and new feelings made for her savior. This book bored me. I realized if I read it before bed, it helped me fall asleep faster. This book was lengthy and descriptive, but boring; I guessed what would happen at the end of the book before I got to the 3rd chapter. It was a very easy read and was exhausting to read. I would recommend this book to people who need help sleeping or people who like horses.
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Lisa ARNETT More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed it and couldn't put it down! I learned about places and cultures I did not know existed. I Googled the cave and saw the beautiful drawings! I love learning about real things in a fictional much more fascinating! This the first Luane Rice book I have read and am looking forward to reading more!
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paristx9 More than 1 year ago
Classic Luanne Rice! Once you start it you don't want to put it down.