Man in the Blue Moonby Michael Morris
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“He’s a gambler at best. A con artist at worst,” her aunt had said of the handlebar-mustached man who snatched Ella Wallace away from her dreams of studying art in France. Eighteen years later, that man has disappeared, leaving Ella alone and struggling to support her three sons. While the world is embroiled in World War I, Ella fights her own personal battle to keep the mystical Florida land that has been in her family for generations from the hands of an unscrupulous banker. When a mysterious man arrives at Ella’s door in an unconventional way, he convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure, and a tenuous trust begins. But as the fight for Ella’s land intensifies, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear. Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family.
The reader may hear echoes of Harper Lee . . . or of Flannery O’Connor’s Southern grotesques . . . or even of Huck Finn. . . . But Morris has his own voice and his own story, and he tells it with uncommon skill and compassion. Washington Post
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Man in the Blue Moon
By MICHAEL MORRIS
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Michael Morris
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhile world leaders stood on platforms and predicted the end of World War I, Ella Wallace stood behind a cash register in a country store and knew without a doubt that her battle was just beginning.
Through the open door Ella could make out the calico-colored cat she constantly shooed away from the store. It climbed down a cypress tree draped in Spanish moss and was careful not to step into the murky water at the edge of the low-lying lake that gave Dead Lakes, Florida, its name.
The cat then trotted across the dirt road and dashed in front of a wagon loaded with sacks of horse feed. It paused long enough to rub its back against the lowest stair leading into Ella's store. It looked up and turned its head as if it knew Ella was watching.
Chimes shaped like Chinese lanterns hung above the store door. They twisted in the late-May breeze and called out as the cat entered. It arched its back and pawed at a clump of tobacco-stained sawdust on the floor.
Ella didn't take a step toward the cat. She wondered if she could move at all. In all her thirty-five years, she never thought she would wind up on the verge of financial and emotional collapse.
Staring back at her in the glass window etched with the words Wallace Commissary was a reflection Ella no longer wanted to acknowledge. Hints of gray were beginning to streak her black hair, and weariness was settling in her blue eyes. Only the full lips that her husband had once called "deliciously pouty" remained of the seventeen- year-old girl who, against her aunt's wishes, had wed Harlan Wallace in the parlor of a circuit judge he'd once beaten in a poker game. Ella had ignored her aunt's warnings at the time, but there was no denying them now. "He's a gambler at best. A con artist at worst," her aunt had said of the handlebar-mustached man who snatched Ella away from her dreams of studying art in France. Ella's aunt had known the French consul back when the country had an office in Apalachicola. Her aunt Katherine had planned the trip to study abroad the same way she orchestrated everything else in Ella's life. Now that dream, like the country itself, was ravaged.
Eighteen years later, here Ella stood, struggling to keep the store she had never wanted from being foreclosed on and trying to support the three sons who were still at home and depended on her.
Ella gripped two letters, one from the Blue Moon Clock Company and another from Gillespie Savings and Loan. Watching the minister's wife, Myer Simpson, finger through a stack of cloth, Ella held the letters flat in her hands like weighted tarot cards. She hoped one would outweigh the other and give her an indication as to which to follow.
Ella could either scrape together enough to make a partial payment on the second mortgage her husband had taken out on their property, or she could gamble on paying the freight charges for a clock her husband must have ordered before he disappeared.
Myer Simpson held up daisy-printed cloth and popped it in the air. Dust danced in the light. Ella used the clock-company envelope to shade her eyes from the early-morning sun that seeped in through the windows. Her thoughts were as scattered as the dust.
With the clock, she stood a chance of selling it and making a profit. The letter didn't say that freight charges for the delivery were covered, only that the clock itself was paid for in full. She hoped if she pulled aside some money to pay the freight, she could sell the clock and use the profit to make a higher payment on the past-due loan. "You're robbing Peter to pay Paul," Ella heard her fearful aunt Katherine call out in her mind. For the past three months, the bank loan had been paid in portions that never equaled the total amount due.
Clive Gillespie, the banker, had made it clear to Ella that she was legally responsible for her husband's bad decisions. "The eyes of the law have no cataracts," Gillespie continuously reminded her before pushing her to sell him the property.
The land that her husband had taken over as his own was the last possession she had left of her father's. His gold watch, the diamond-studded tie clip, and the curls of hair that her father had maintained until death belonged to President Lincoln—they had all been sold, one by one, to cover her husband's debts. The tract of land that sat on the Florida panhandle was thick with pines and cypress. An artesian spring fed a pool of water that local Indians claimed could remedy gout and arthritis. The acreage had been in her family for two generations. Before her parents had died of typhoid fever, her father had given her strict instructions to use the land but never to sell it.
Ella had been only eleven when her father died, but whenever she thought of him, she still felt the grip of his fingers around her wrist as he leaned up on the side of his deathbed. His words were tangled in the bloody mucus that was suffocating him. Ella struggled to turn away but his bony fingers dug deeper into her. "Hold on to your land," he wheezed. "It's your birthright. Don't forget whose you are and where you come from."
But that was long ago. That was before she met Harlan Wallace and accepted his proposal to join their lives and livelihoods together. That was certainly before she had learned through Mr. Gillespie that her husband had taken out a second mortgage on the property. The banker never seemed to believe her when she told him that Harlan had forged her signature.
"How much for this red polka-dotted one?" Myer Simpson held up the cloth with the edge of her fingertip. She eyed Ella through the tops of her glasses. Her pointy nose and collapsed chin always reminded Ella of a hedgehog. "It's got a nick at the bottom," she added.
"Does a nickel sound fair?" Ella asked.
"Three cents sounds fairer."
As she paid for the cloth, Myer Simpson used the newspaper with President Wilson's picture on the front page to fan herself. "You heard about Judge Willughby's son?"
"So sad," Ella said. "So young."
"They tell me he died in the middle of the ocean. In a submarine. Can you imagine? Losing your boy in a contraption like that ... in the middle of the ocean, no less." With her fingers spread across the face of President Wilson, Mrs. Simpson lifted the edge of her straw hat and fanned her scalp. She paused long enough to point toward the spot on the shelf where bags of sugar had once sat. "When in the world will you get some more sugar?"
"I can't get a straight answer. All I hear is not to sell more than half a pound a week, and I can't even get the first pound."
Myer Simpson frowned and fanned faster. "The way this war is going on, if I ever see sugar again, it will be a miracle. President Wilson keeps talking about peace, but I don't know what this world is coming to. Wars and plagues ... well, just last week I received a letter from my sister in Kansas. She says hundreds of boys at Fort Riley came down with some sort of flu. Strapping boys dropping dead ... just like that." Myer Simpson swatted the air with the folded newspaper. "Mark my word, we're living in the end times."
A breeze swept in through the store door, and the chimes called out, soothing the air. Ella welcomed the distraction. She was anxious enough as it was. She didn't need the added burden of dire revelations.
Myer Simpson smiled at Ella in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. It was an expression that Ella took as a show of pity. "We've been missing you at church. Do you think we'll see you this Sunday?"
To avoid Myer Simpson's stare, Ella looked down at the counter.
"Now, Ella, not to pry," Myer said, moving closer, "but you know what Reverend Simpson says: we can be bitter or we can be better."
Ella felt a panicked grip on her chest. Her eyes landed on the Blue Moon Clock logo on the envelope in her hand. It was a cartoonish drawing of a full blue moon shaped like a man's smiling face. "Mrs. Simpson, would you have any need for a clock?"
Myer Simpson recoiled backward. "What? No. Now I'm talking to you about—"
"I have a clock being delivered by steamboat to Apalachicola. It's beautiful," Ella said without knowing anything about the item her husband had ordered. "Handcrafted. Walnut, I believe. I just thought that maybe you'd ..."
"Where's it coming from?"
Ella flipped the envelope back over and looked at the return address. "Bainbridge, Georgia."
"What use do I have with another clock? I've got a fine clock sitting right on my mantel," Myer Simpson said while placing her purchase in a wicker bag. When she got to the edge of the door next to a barrel of apples, she paused and lifted her finger. "My daughter, Mary Francis, might be interested, though. When you get it, I'll take a look." She stepped outside and then came back, leaning halfway into the store until her drooping bosom brushed against the peeling doorframe. "If it's a grandfather clock, I especially want to see it. I've always wanted one of those."
Ella didn't even bother to put the Closed sign up on the door when she locked it. She snatched the Blue Moon envelope from the counter and yanked off her apron.
On the back porch of the store, Ella tried to step past Narsissa, who was sweeping sawdust into an organized pile. A Creek Indian, Narsissa had shown up at the store with all of her possessions wrapped in a gingham quilt, wanting to work until she had enough money to buy passage to Brazil. Six years later she was still living in a converted smokehouse behind Ella's home. She stopped sweeping and stuck out her boot. "Where are you running off to?"
"I've made up my mind. I'm getting that clock." Ella stepped over Narsissa's boot and walked down the wooden stairs and toward the white clapboard home that was guarded by a sunflower garden. She didn't have to look back to know that Narsissa was shaking her head in disapproval. Her braided hair, as thick as a horse's tail, would be swinging back and forth.
Narsissa had made her opinion known about the mysterious letter last night at supper. "The last thing you need to go and do is upset that bank man. He's told you and told you—he will take this place. He's not playing, either." Ella tried to forget the words of caution. Besides, Narsissa was too cautious for her own good. If she had been of a nature to gamble for something better, she would have left a long time ago for Brazil in search of the husband who supposedly awaited her.
It was just a clock, Ella kept telling herself as she walked through the back door of her home and smelled the turnips that were stewing on the woodstove. If nothing else, she could give it to Mr. Busby, the picture taker, and let him take it on his circuit. He could sell it just like he had all her father's other possessions, and she could split the money with him again.
Ella reached for a log that was stacked atop a pile in the corner, and a lizard ran out. She snatched it up by the tail and jerked open the screen door. As she threw the lizard outside, Ella was sideswiped by the fear that she, too, would be tossed out of her home. She pictured the fear that had become a constant tormentor as a black mushroom clamped to the side of her brain, a deformity of sorts that she had begun to accept as her lot in life. She put another log in the stove and poked at the embers extra hard, causing sparks to fly out. She never paused to realize that before Harlan's afflictions, the idea of catching a lizard by the tail would have caused her to shiver.
"Samuel ... Samuel, are you here?" Ella could smell the salve from the hallway. She followed the scent to her youngest son, Macon. He was propped up on the bed, his throat swollen and blisters the size of quarters covering the outside of his lips. Sweat lined Macon's forehead, and when he turned to look at Ella, his cheeks seemed gaunter than they had the day before.
"Did he eat anything?" Ella asked her other son, Keaton. Then, not wanting Macon to think that she thought he was invisible, she turned to him and wiped his brow with the rag that was in the basin next to the bed. "Baby, did you manage to eat any breakfast?"
Both boys shook their heads at the same time. There were seven years between them, yet Macon looked more like he was three instead of six. The virus that wouldn't let go had caused him to seemingly shrink until there were nights when Ella dreamed that she walked into his room and found nothing more than a son the size of an acorn.
In desperation, Ella had even used some of the mortgage money to hire an internist from Panama City to make a house visit. The doctor had arrived with a medical bag made of cowhide. When he set the bag on the edge of the bed, Ella noticed that it was ripped in the corner, revealing discolored cardboard. The doctor spread his tools across the nightstand next to Macon's bed and anointed Ella's oldest son, Samuel, his assistant. "I take it you're the man around the place now that your daddy has run off from the henhouse," the doctor said without looking at Ella. Samuel rubbed the sparse goatee that he was trying to grow on his sixteen-year-old chin and nodded. When Keaton stepped forward to get a closer look at the scratched silver tools on the nightstand, Samuel jerked his brother away and shoved him back toward the spot where Ella stood at the bedroom door. While the doctor prodded and poked Macon, he rambled on about a weakened constitution caused from parasites.
"You know how boys this age can be. He'll eat the dirt and anything that's in it," the doctor had said. "A virus in the chicken pox family," he declared. "He's still puny because the illness is aggravated by his asthma. He'll be back to running around in no time." Ella followed the doctor's instructions to the letter, preparing coffee so thick that it looked like mud. She mixed in the powder that the man had magically pulled from his bag. Macon gagged and vomited when she fed it to him. By the fifth day, she had heeded Macon's plea to stop making him sicker.
"Well," Ella said as she sat on the side of Macon's bed. "What if I get you some candy? Not that cheap candy from our store ... genuine salt water taffy from the dock." She watched her ailing son's eyes light up. He loved the taffy that came straight from the boats that docked in the bay at Apalachicola. Back when times were better, he'd gone with his father to town every chance he had.
"We're going to town today?" Keaton, the middle son, asked. There was a stitch of hair above his lip. It was a constant reminder to Ella that he was a boy trapped inside a body that was becoming a man.
"I've decided to go ahead and pick up that shipment from the clock company."
Keaton jumped up from the wooden chair and shuffled his feet in a playful way that made Macon laugh and then grimace in pain. Before Ella could touch Macon's forehead again, her youngest son sighed, expressing the frustration they all felt toward the illness that not even Narsissa with her herbs and chants could eradicate.
"Where has Samuel run off to now?" Ella asked. Since the day the doctor had prescribed him the role of head of the household, Samuel had taken the responsibility with a seriousness that at first made Ella proud. Now his arrogance was irritating. It was, she realized, the same overconfidence that had first attracted her to his father.
"Samuel is still out squirrel hunting," Keaton said. His eyes were green like her father's had been. Of the three boys, Keaton was the one who felt most like hers, seemingly untainted by the troubled blood of her husband.
"Please get him. Ask him to hitch the wagon. And ask Narsissa to come inside. She can stay with Macon until we get back from town."
Inside her bedroom, Ella looked into the spider-veined mirror above her dresser. Pulling her hair into a twist against the nape of her neck, she snatched out a gray strand. She put on the earrings Narsissa had made for her out of baby mockingbird feathers and oyster shells. Fingering the dangling earrings, she felt that by wearing them she somehow paid homage to the young woman she used to be. That young woman, who had been sent to attend finishing school in Apalachicola by the aunt with dreams, had become nothing more than a mist that sprinkled her memories. For some odd reason, Ella could still recite bits and pieces of a poem from English class. A verse about the eyes being the mirror to the soul. Pulling back the skin around her forehead and causing the wrinkles to momentarily disappear, Ella studied her eyes. There was dullness now that resembled the marbles her sons played with in the dirt. She snatched up a doily that her aunt had knit years ago and flung it over the mirror.
After she had dressed in the last gift her husband had given her, a dropped-waist lilac-colored dress shipped from Atlanta, Ella kissed Macon on the forehead and tried not to look at the open sores lining his swollen lips. Narsissa sat in the chair next to the bed. She had brought the butter churn inside and with a steady rhythm pumped the wooden handle.
Excerpted from Man in the Blue Moon by MICHAEL MORRIS Copyright © 2012 by Michael Morris. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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A fifth-generation native of Perry, Florida, a rural area near Tallahassee, Michael Morris knows southern culture and characters. It is the foundation and inspiration for the stories and novels he writes.
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A Florida set Novel with adult themes. Ella is fighting to protect the land she inherited from her father after her husband gambled, then mortgaged the land away. To do so, she begins a David and Goliath fight against small town prejudices, a corrupt bank owner, and a snake-oil religious only aided by her three sons, a mysterious relative-in-law, a close friend, and at the last minute, some neighbors. I struggled to get into this story. While the characters are realistic and the imagery well drawn, I almost felt like there were too many themes to this story. The plot referenced spousal abuse, substance abuse, abuse of the disabled, abandonment, pandemic illness, gossip, child labor, racism, pedophilia, homosexuality (in a very subtle manner), false religion, WW1, prostitution, supernatural abilities, suicide, and murder (including infanticide). There are even two climaxes–one about saving the land, and the other about the 1918 flu. The majority of these themes are only in passing, aren't elaborated on, and left to dangle. The very fact that this book manages to avoid feeling dark is a testament to the ability of the writer. The emphasis on hope, redemption, and honesty is necessary to make an otherwise bleak story of survival readable. But when I finished this story, I didn't feel enjoyment; I felt exhausted. Three stars for being well written, and for having some creative plot twists. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under age 18, despite the extremely mild handling of most of the disturbing scenes. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone over 18 either, unless they have a particular affinity for Florida.
Powerful story of 1900s Florida. Years before Ella put aside all chances for a genteel lady’s life and perhaps even an art education to marry Harlan, a mystery man who had charmed both Ella and her best friend Neva. Quickly Ella’s life turned to one of babies and debt darkened by a drunken, gambling husband. When drunkenness and gambling give way to an opium habit, Harlan just leaves. With three sons, one of whom is extremely ill, Ella barely can keep their little general store open, let alone make the next payment on the mortgage – a mortgage Harlan had taken out without her knowledge to cover a gambling debt. When word comes that there is a shipment from a clock company at the dock, Ella hopes that it might be grandfather clock sent by Harlan, a clock that she can sell and make a payment to the bank. She realizes it is a foolish hope, but since all indications are that the shipment has been paid for, Ella and her boys make the trip to the dock for the box. One review I read compared author Michael Morris’s story to Mark Twain’s stories of the south. There are some similarities. First, when Ella and family open the box to find not a clock, but a dirty, silent man, it seemed just the kind of surprise that Twain would subject his readers and Huck to. After Ella learns the man’s story and allows Lanier to stay, we really remain uneasy about the stranger throughout most of the book. Morris, like Twain, will let Lanier’s actions speak for him. He appears to have the gift of healing, but a murder and a dark past follow him into the Apalachicola, Florida town. The town will be split as to where his gift comes from. The supporting characters in this book are a sign of quality writing. From his first appearance, you will mistrust and dislike the banker. Little by little, the author reveals the man’s devious hold on the city and many of its residents. When the “famous” preacher Brother Mabry and his wife hit town ready to proclaim the Apalachicola River as the original Garden of Eden and the little springs on Ella’s land (soon to be the banker’s land), I couldn’t help but think of the characters Huck met on the Mississippi River. Despite some surface comparisons to Twain, Morris’s story is a much different one. Yes, there is apparent hypocrisy and it is evident that the poorest and weakest in this story are also the noblest and most loyal. But The Man in the Blue Moon is frankly told and with the greed and hatred comes violence. In the end, I liked this book. It is definitely a book that could be read by both men and women. It was published by Tyndale, but it does not fit an easy categorization. You really have to stop and think to recognize the Christian themes of weak being mighty and the mighty being weak. For a while I was unsure what Morris was trying to show with Lanier’s healing powers, but I was satisfied with how the story unfolded. I especially liked the backdrop setting of World War I America and the American South. To anyone who does read this book, make sure you read the comment by the author at the end when he talks about the “old story” in his family about a man in a box being shipped to distant family – it makes the book even better. Sometimes when I read books for review purposes I begin to think I am reading “formula” stories. This title surely will never be described as that! I received an ecopy of this book for review purposes from NetGalley and Tyndale Publishers. All opinions are my own.
Reviewed by Jean for Readers Favorite The book "Man in the Blue Moon" depicts the manner in which Lanier joins Ella and her three sons to help Ella and save her farm from an unscrupulous banker. He has himself shipped to the family in a box labeled Blue Moon Clock. The story is told with rare talent by Michael Morris who has produced a true Southern book. Ella's husband has left her and the boys and she struggles to carry on without him. The book is full of fascinating characters that etch out a realistic cast for the west Florida setting during the first World War and then through the flu epidemic that caused widespread misery. "Man in the Blue Moon" by Michael Morris is an extraordinary story of the lives and struggles of the people of Florida in the days of World War I and the flu epidemic. But the most important reason you should read this book is the author's depiction of the characters in the book. He has a rare talent for creating characters and you will grow very fond of some and some will make your your skin crawl. Many of the locals take issue with the presence of Lanier, the newcomer. This will be one of the books you will remember for a long time and you will be glad that you have read it.
"What did you think of this book?" Honestly? I didn't really like it, but that's not necessarily an accurate reflection of the book or the author. The truth is, "Man in the Blue Moon" takes place in what I believe to be a very depressing and hard to read about time and place in American history: the South in the late 1910's (leading up to the Roaring Twenties, a time period I can barely bring myself to read about). Its a time and place of prejudice, superstition, and rampant, albeit hidden, immorality. The author, Michael Morris, doesn't hesitate to address all these issues, which made the book very hard to read at times. My only complaints of the book, other than my personal tastes, are the following: the story jumped around quite a bit from the viewpoints of different characters, and I sometimes found it hard to follow, but that might be more the fault of the editor/publisher, because there weren't appropriate spaces between paragraphs that were unrelated. Secondly, the explanation of the "healer" never became evident to me and I didn't understand his internal torment, but maybe I'm just dense. On the positive side, I loved the fact that Michael Morris wrote this story from so much personal experience and wove in stories from his family's history. (Make sure you read the author interview at the end of the book, but wait til you're done or it'll spoil some surprises for you.) Being a native of the area in which the book takes place, Mr. Morris writes knowledgeably and does make the story come alive with his vivid wording and imagery. For these reasons I am giving the book 3 stars, because although I did not enjoy the book personally, I know there are those who will love it and I don't want anyone to think its a bad, poorly written book.
This book is set in Florida during WWI and the focuses on the Wallace family. Husband Harlan has abandoned his wife Ella and their three boys, Samuel, 16 (almost but not quite a man, who is in dire need of a dad-in-his-right-mind), Keaton, 13 (on the cusp of manhood who desperately wants to do the right thing), and Macon, 6. They are all dealing with the fallout of not only his absence but his opium addiction and ensuing bad decisions that have left them with a very precarious financial situation. There are so many major characters and detailed sub-stories but this book has everything from base human behaviors to strong friendships to generational curses to forgiveness. While there is not a pretty bow-tied ending, personally I was still satisfied with how he ended this story. There is an interesting personal story from the author at the end as well. This was my first Michael Morris book and initially I was unsure how I would describe it and if I could say I enjoyed it; however, as I continued to read, it definitely grew on me. I can positively recommend "Man in the Blue Moon".
It had a great time period, great location, interesting story, and a little bit of fantasy thrown in. Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris was a book club selection for our meeting in January and I’m so glad it was suggested because I never would have picked it up on my own. This book had some delicious components. Based prior to the end of World War 1, the story took place in the Florida panhandle. My fellow book club members suggested that the author used a checklist as he put together his tale of the south, early nineteen hundreds: Florida panhandle Plenty of mention of the heat or sweating World War 1 Small town Rationing Opium Religion and tent revivals Miracles Mentally disabled girl A heroine, on her own Indian legends, Indians Town drunk Love triangle Ella Wallace, on the brink of losing her home and family store to the bank due to foreclosure, makes a tough decision to pick up a package from Blue Moon Clock Company at the dock of the shipping company that received it rather than make a partial payment on the second mortgage. She was in this dilemma because her deadbeat, drug-addled husband disappeared without a word, leaving Ella and her sons close to being penniless and surrounded by bills. Taking delivery of the clock she gets it home only to discover a surprise inside that changes her life. Ella, her three children, and Narsissa, a Creek Indian who adopted the family, fight to keep their home while struggling against poverty, short rations, heat, men seeking revenge, a conniving banker determined to take over Ella’s land and sell it for profit, and a deadly flu virus, all while batting aside gossip and rumors regarding her morals. Written in a no-nonsense manner, Michael Morris weaves a complex tale of a strong woman trying to make her place in a small-minded town of Dead Lakes. It is not an easy path, with roadblocks at every turn, but it makes for an interesting and enjoyable read. I highly recommend this if you enjoy period books (although this could have easily been placed in a modern setting) and a strong woman in the lead role.
Harlan Wallace has disappeared; first into an opium-induced haze, and now he has disappeared completely. His wife Ella has been left on her own to finish raising their three sons in the Florida Panhandle town of Dead Lakes, just outside of Apalachicola. The banker, Clive Gillespie, can't wait to get his hands on Ella's property, and when it seems that Ella won't be able to meet the mortgage, a mysterious man appears and begins to help. Soon, everyone is talking about the new man in town and his healing gift. When his past catches up with him, the town of Dead Lakes is changed forever. If Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor had a son who was taught by Harper Lee and he sneaked a few Stephen King novels when they weren't looking, you would have Michael Morris. Since I assume this didn't happen, I was left speechless. First , it was set in my favorite Florida town, Apalachicola, and even mentioned my favorite island, St. George Island. The Florida Panhandle has a feel and a flavor to it that you will never find in The Land of the Mouse or farther south in Miami. Michael Morris has captured that feeling and flavor in one fantastic novel. I could see the swampy areas, the cypress, the Spanish moss hanging from the trees in the town, and the bay emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. His characters are so well-drawn that I could see them. And he has developed some really quirky, interesting characters. Characters like this only come along once...well, once in a blue moon! 5 stars
Reviewed by Karen P. for Readers Favorite "Man in the Blue Moon" by Michael Morris is a book for all seasons and for all types of readers. Written by a Southern author, it tells the tale of Ella Wallace, a Florida woman with three sons whose husband drank, gambled, did cocaine and then abandoned the family, leaving Ella with a small merchandise store and a mountain of debts. Enter a strange man claiming to be a cousin of Ella's husband. He has mysterious healing powers and he has the ability to distract Ella to no end. Destitute and needing all the help she can get, Ella hires the stranger to cut down a forest on her land, hoping to sell the wood and pay off the mortgage to her small store and the surrounding land. There are many ploys working in this novel and the reader will be delighted with them all. The author appears to combine styles and flavors from O'Connor, Mark Twain and Harper Lee. The story takes place during World War I and it is filled with characters and vivid images of the Florida Panhandle area. Everyone who reads the novel will surely have a favorite character. All are developed to the fullest, giving the reader the privilege of hopping right into the story and either helping the villains to their deserved demise or standing beside the heroes and heroines as they battle against the odds. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and it will be one to be reread in the years to come.
This was my first Michael Morris book and I enjoyed it. He was recommended by a friend (although she has not read this one yet). I found the story interesting and the characters relatable. The story was original and had a secondary themes involving faith and healing. I will definitely look for another of his books in the near future.
In MAN IN THE BLUE MOON, Michael Morris has given us a lovely novel that crosses many genres. It’s southern literature, historical fiction, an inspirational tale, and it has a bit of magic to it, too. Rather than put it in one of those categories though, I’ll just say that it’s a great story with terrific writing to propel it. MAN IN THE BLUE MOON begins with Ella Wallace struggling to support her children, keep the family land, and move on after her husband has left her for his real love: opium. With World War I as its backdrop, Ella’s story of survival gives Morris an opportunity to look at faith, family, and friendships, and how those elements intertwine in the context of small-town life. As is the case with many of my favorite books, some of the secondary characters are the ones who grab my attention and take the story from good to great. My favorite, Reverend Simpson, hung in the background as a good conscience should, and any time he took to the podium of his church, I was ready to pay attention. Sure, some of the other residents of Dead Lakes, Florida were a bit stereotypical, but Morris’s writing ensured that I didn’t really notice that until I had finished the book. It’s easy to see why Publishers Weekly chose MAN IN THE BLUE MOON as one of its Best Books of 2012 in the Religion category, describing it as “everything faith fiction ought to be and usually isn't: a fabulous (as in fable) and subtle tale of love, loyalty, grit, and on-fire imagination, a Southern stew lightly seasoned with the mystery of faith.”
Since her deadbeat husband forged her name on a mortgage of her home and land to get money for alcohol and opium before disappearing, Ella Wallace did her best to gain extra time to pay the bank. However Clive Gillespie, the banker, wanted the property too much for his own ideas of making money to be willing to help a young mother of 3 children whose husband had disappeared. Her last hope was to sell the clock she was expecting that had been shipped free to her by the Blue Moon Clock Company. When she finally received the large wooden box and opened it, she found a live man, not a clock. The man had needed to get out of town quickly and had been helped by friends to be shipped directly to his cousin Harlan, Ella’s missing husband. With Lanier’s help Ella would try a series of tasks to raise money in time to pay the mortgage. Why did these attempts fail? What unusual ability did Lanier have that helped people? What took place in the town that caused many deaths? Why did Lanier leave? Why did Keaton leave? Why did Lanier return? What news did Lanier give Ella? What almost happened to Ella? I found this book interesting but not exciting. It definitely is a slow Southern love story about a woman driven to survive and care for her children.
Impressive, Touching, Dramatic. An Emotional and Hopeful Story. I was unsure whether I could enjoy this book after seeing the reviews on the book cover about a Southern drama, because I was not sure what a Southern writing style was. The writing was hard to follow at times, when he made a statement out of nowhere and then proceeded to explain it. The story surprised me, though, by starting to grow on me. There were amazing events, especially the way the man from Blue Moon Clock Co. was introduced. The writing is brilliant. There was so much going on, and so many emotional scenes, I read straight through, because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. It featured people of strength in different forms, and some humor. This is definitely worth reading.
I really enjoyed this book. I could hardly put it down. Although I must admit the ending was a little disappointing after I had read the rest of the book.
Ella is trying to keep her family's property after her husband disappears and the bank threatens to foreclose. With the help of a mysterious stranger, they work to raise the money needed. I thought the book was good with a lot of interesting characters. There were so many characters that at times I couldn't keep them straight. I found the book rather sad with World War I, the influenza epidemic and a struggling family all taking place in the story.
I just did not enjoy this book. It was very slow, the characters were not that interesting to me, and it was pretty depressing. It started out pretty good, laying the groundwork for some interesting things to develop and then went down from there. Perhaps it was too many characters that weren't fully developed? Perhaps the author had great ideas, but didn't fully implement them? I can't really point to one thing that made me not enjoy this book, but it was not for me. I had a hard time finishing it and will not read it again.
Despite her aunt’s warnings, Ella Wallace proceeds to marry a farmer who cannot give her the life she deserves. After three children and hard work on the land and in the home, Ella learns her husband has abandoned her. To make matters worse, a scrupulous banker is determined to take her land from her. Alone, she struggles to keep her farm solvent without any outside help. Then one day, she receives a notice that a parcel awaits her. She believes it to be a clock, something her husband foolishly purchased but something she might be able to sell to help pay the banker before he forecloses. When she opens the box, out jumps a man, Lanier Stillis, a distant relative of her husband. Lanier has been accused of a crime he did not commit and hopes to find a refuge with Ella. It turns out he works hard with Ella in an effort to help her save her home and lands. Lanier, however, is not all he seems. In fact, he has a gift to heal those who are sick or wounded. As word spreads, some seek Lanier out for help while others look upon him with suspicion and mistrust, tarnishing poor Ella’s reputation as people begin to shun her. Set in Florida panhandle in the early days of the 20th century, this novel is one of great depth and fascinating characters. As the main character, Ella stands up against adversity with strength and courage. As the story unfolds, and as each character is introduced, they each play a pivotal role in the story. This character driven novel is written with detailed descriptions and eloquent prose, while telling a darn good, poignant story.
Totally enjoyable. It's excellent writing! Riveting actually. Meet Ella: she's an orphan raised by her late aunt, married Harlan Wallace who succumbed to his opium addiction and ran off and left her with three boys, a store to manage and mortgage on her father's land she swore to protect. The evil Clive Gillespie, the bank owner will find every means he can to take the land right out from under her. The action really starts when Lanier, Harlan's cousin, shows up mysteriously and has all the townsfolk talking. It's like a movie unfolding. We know there's going to be trouble. But you're still shocked when it happens. It's an assault on your emotions. Explosive details are written and the images just come alive in your mind. We expect Lanier to be the hero that swoops in and saves the day. It's Ella who saves herself. What a great change of pace. What an inspiration.
This book just did not connect with me with all the mystical elements it had within. Man in the Blue Moon takes place in Florida during World War I in a small southern town filled with all the small town busy bodies you can imagine. Unfortunately, many of them get names and you have to keep track of who is who, not an easy task. The storyline of this book weaves around with murder and mayhem and maladies but I found it difficult and not really enjoyable.