This passionate love story of a 19-year-old man and a 28-year-old single mother played out at the Jersey Shore in the 1970s is infused with music of its time and punctuated by the insidious effects of creeping alcoholism. It's the tale of a truncated, failed life that left a profound positive legacy.
Moonshadow defies classification. Yes, it is a novel, a work of fiction, but having been inspired by a real relationship it likely has more truth to it than many works passing for non-fiction these days.
It is a love story, but not a romance. It lacks the water-colored quality of many romantic novels. It has edges. There is no fading out to waves breaking on the shore, no touching in secret places. There is real sex, real sorrow, real life. It resonates with the sights, smells and sounds of the Jersey Shore of the 1970s.
Told in the first person, Moonshadow is an intimate, seemingly simple tale. Yet the bottom line burrows deep - how our lives intersect and change as a result in a myriad of unexpected ways. We are entwined in this intricate dance known as life, making up the steps as we go, not knowing when the music will stop.
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Read an Excerpt
Time Fill My Eyes
Please, please, don't let me be late.
I tugged hard at the heavy church door. It unexpectedly gave way, flying from my grasp. Inside was the hushed oppressive silence that weighs down the air just before a funeral. I headed for a rear pew but changed my mind. Instead, I slid unnoticed into one a few rows behind the family, his family. I was relieved to have a moment or two to collect myself. God, I can't believe I drove in the wrong direction for 20 minutes. Even my subconscious can't bear to be here. But here I sit, alone, a Jew in a Catholic Church, at the funeral of a man I hadn't heard so much as a whisper from in almost 15 years.
The April evening was raw, but that's not why I couldn't stop shivering. Barely a week ago, Nick relayed the news that his brother Don was dead, pushing the words over the phone line breathlessly. He had been found the day before in an Oakland motel room, after his heart had given out-or perhaps given in-two months shy of his 40th birthday.
In place of a casket was a wood box, not much larger than the type that holds cigars. At least I don't have to confront some ghastly facsimile of him laid out in an open coffin. Instead, two photos flanked the box. An angelic, sepia tinted picture of a child at communion was vaguely familiar. But the other, a simple black and white close-up, sucked my breath away. It was the face of a young man caught in a moment of pure joy. It was the face I knew, the face I loved.
When I could bring myself to look away, I noticed the yellow roses, my favorite. They're everywhere. How eerie. So many times he had sent them to me. I glanced down at the single yellow rose in my lap and shuddered. Lifting the bloom to my face I inhaled deeply, capturing its scent and blocking the lingering odor of incense, which always made my nose itch. The cloying aroma penetrated my nostrils anyway and lodged in my brain, evoking unbidden images of Don behind clouds of pot smoke.
My eyes roamed the tiny seaside church, searching for a familiar face. So few people. None of his childhood friends. I'm not sure why that surprised me. After all, he'd left the Jersey Shore for the West Coast years ago, refusing to return for so much as a quick visit. I never even liked most of his friends. Still, their absence reinforced my feeling of isolation.
Studying the backs of those in the front pews, I could make out his parents and sister, guessing that an unfamiliar back belonged to her husband. His mother's back was still and straight, stoically calm. Tears will come from the men in the family. I can find no one resembling Donald's ex-wife, Beth, or their daughter, Donna. Chagrined, I realized how much I wanted them here, how I longed to see Donna again. As an infant, she had been the picture of her mother. Now in her teens, I wondered how much of Don shone through those big brown eyes. After the divorce, Beth and I had greeted each other warmly at rare chance meetings, but that was years ago, before she remarried and moved to Atlanta. It's as if having shared a common love made us family, sort of distant cousins. Their absence made for more unfinished business.
My eyes settled on the broad back and dark ponytail directly in front of me. Good God, that must be Nick. Let's see, by now he would be in his mid-thirties. Gone was the lanky 17-year-old who arrived at my doorstep guitar in hand. I softly touched his shoulder. He turned his head, covering my hand with his own. For a second, I wasn't alone.
The music began. It was all too familiar, yet it caught me off guard. The seductive voice of Cat Stevens drew me suffocatingly close, luring me back 20 years.