Winner of the 2016 Tiptree Award!
Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
Stonewall Book Award Honor
“McLemore’s second novel is such a lush surprising fable, you half expect birds to fly out of the pages… McLemore uses the supernatural to remind us that the body’s need to speak its truth is primal and profound, and that the connection between two people is no more anyone’s business than why the dish ran away with the spoon.”
--Jeff Giles, New York Times Book Review
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers was greeted with rave reviews, a YALSA Morris Award nomination, and spots on multiple “Best YA Novels” lists. Now, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon was Ours is another winner from this talented author.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and grew up in a Mexican-American family. She attended University of Southern California on a Trustee Scholarship. A Lambda Literary Fellow, she has had work featured by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, CRATE Literary Magazine’s cratelit, Camera Obscura’s Bridge the Gap Series, and The Portland Review. She is the author of The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours.
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. She is the author of The Weight of Feathers, When the Moon Was Ours, Wild Beauty, and Blanca&Roja.
Read an Excerpt
When the Moon Was Ours
By Anna-Marie McLemore
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Anna-Marie McLemore
All rights reserved.
sea of clouds
As far as he knew, she had come from the water. But even about that, he couldn't be sure.
It didn't matter how many nights they'd met on the untilled land between their houses; the last farm didn't rotate its crops, and stripped the soil until nothing but wild grasses would grow. It didn't matter how many stories he and Miel had told each other when they could not sleep, him passing on his mother's fables of moon bears that aided lost travelers, Miel making up tales about his moon lamps falling in love with stars. Sam didn't know any more than anyone else about where she'd come from before he found her in the brush field. She seemed to have been made of water one minute and the next, became a girl.
Someday, he and Miel would be nothing but a fairy tale. When they were gone from this town, no one would remember the exact brown of Miel's eyes, or the way she spiced recado rojo with cloves, or even that Sam and his mother were Pakistani. At best, they would remember a dark-eyed girl, and a boy whose family had come from somewhere else. They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and a boy woven into the folklore of this place.
This is the story that mothers would tell their children:
There was once a very old water tower. Rust had turned its metal such a deep orange that the whole tank looked like a pumpkin, an enormous copy of the fruit that grew in the fields where it cast its shadow. No one tended this water tower anymore, not since a few strikes from a summer of lightning storms left it leaning to one side as though it were tired and slouching. Years ago, they had filled it from the river, but now rust and minerals choked the pipes. When they opened the valve at the base of the tower, nothing more than a few drops trickled out. The bolts and sheeting looked weak enough that one autumn windstorm might crumble the whole thing.
So the town decided that they would build a new water tower, and that the old one would come down. But the only way to drain it would be to tip it over like a cup. They would have to be ready for the whole tower to crash to the ground, all that rusted metal, those thousands of gallons of dirty, rushing water spilling out over the land.
For the fall, they chose the side of the tower where a field of brush was so dry, a single spark would catch and light it all. All that water, they thought, might bring a little green. From that field, they dug up wildflowers, chicory and Indian paintbrush and larkspur, replanting them alongside the road, so they would not be drowned or smashed. They feared that if they were not kind to the beautiful things that grew wild, their own farms would wither and die.
Children ran through the brush fields, chasing away squirrels and young deer so that when the water tower came down, they would not be crushed. Among these children was a boy called Moon because he was always painting lunar seas and shadows onto glass and paper and anything he could make glow. Moon knew to keep his steps and his voice gentle, so he would not startle the rabbits, but would stir them to bound back toward their burrows.
When the animals and the wildflowers were gone from the brush field, the men of the town took their axes and hammers and mallets to the base of the water tower, until it fell like a tree. It arced toward the ground, its fall slow, as though it were leaning forward to touch its own shadow. When it hit, the rusted top broke off, and all that water rushed out.
For a minute the water, brown as a forgotten cup of tea, hid the brush that looked like pale wheat stubble. But when it slid and spread out over the field, flattening the brittle stalks, soaking into the dry ground, everyone watching made out the shape of a small body.
A girl huddled in the wet brush, her hair stuck to her face, her eyes wide and round as amber marbles. She had on a thin nightgown, which must have once been white, now stained cream by the water. But she covered herself with her arms, cowering like she was naked and looking at everyone like they were all baring their teeth.
At first a few of the mothers shrieked, wondering whose child had been left in the water tower's path. But then they realized that they did not know this girl. She was not their daughter, or the daughter of any of the mothers in town.
No one would come near her. The ring of those who had come to see the tower taken down widened a little more the longer they watched her. Each minute they put a little more space between her and them, more afraid of this small girl than of so much falling water and rusted metal. And she stared at them, seeming to meet all their eyes at once, her look both vicious and frightened.
But the boy called Moon came forward and knelt in front of her. He took off his jacket and put it on her. Talked to her in a voice soft enough that no one else could hear it.
Everyone drew back, expecting her to bite him or to slash her fingernails across his face. But she looked at him, and listened to him, his words stripping the feral look out of her eyes.
After that day, anyone who had not been at the water tower thought she was the same as any other child, little different from the boy she was always with. But if they looked closely, they could see the hem of her skirt, always a little damp, never quite drying no matter how much the sun warmed it.
This would be the story, a neat distillation of what had happened. It would weed out all the things that did not fit. It would not mention how Miel, soaking wet and smelling of rust, screamed into her hands with everyone watching. Because everyone was watching, and she wanted to soak into the ground like the spilled water and vanish. How Sam crouched in front of her saying, "Okay, okay," keeping his words slow and level so she would know what he meant. You can stop screaming; I hear you, I understand. And because she believed him, that he heard her, and understood, she did stop.
It would leave out the part about the Bonner sisters. The four of them, from eight-year-old Chloe to three-year-old Peyton, had been there to see the water tower come down, all of them lined up so their hair looked like a forest of autumn trees. Peyton had been holding a small gray pumpkin that, in that light, looked almost blue. She had it cradled in one arm, and with the other hand was petting it like a bird. When she'd taken a step toward Miel, clutching that pumpkin, Miel's screaming turned raw and broken, and Peyton startled back to her sisters.
Once Sam knew about Miel's fear of pumpkins, he understood, how Peyton treating it like it was alive made Miel afraid not only of Peyton but of all of them. But that part would never make it into the story.
This version would also strip away the part about Sam trying to take Miel home like she was a stray cat. His mother's calm conviction as she diced potatoes that they would find a place for this girl. And she was right. In less time than it took the saag aloo to finish cooking, Aracely, the woman who had seemed to Sam as much like an aunt as a neighbor, appeared at their door saying she might have space in her rented house for this girl made of water.
It would not mention how Miel's hair had barely dried when the first green leaf of a rose stem broke through her small wrist. That was a different story, strange and bloody and glinting with the silver of scissor blades. A story for older children, ones who did not fear their own nightmares.
And this version of the story would scramble the order of events. No one but Sam had heard what Miel was screaming into her hands. I lost the moon, she had said, sobbing against her fingers. I lost the moon.
He never asked her what she meant. Even then, he knew better. Her feeling that the moon had slipped from her grasp seemed locked in a place so far inside her that to reach it would be to break her open. But this was why Sam painted shadows and lunar seas on paper and metal and glass, copying the shadows of mare imbrium and oceanus procellarum — to give her back the moon. He had painted dark skies and bright moons on flat paper since he was old enough to hold a brush, old enough to look through the library's astronomy atlases. But it wasn't until this girl spilled out of the water tower, sobbing over her lost moon, that Sam began painting so many copies of the brightest light in the night sky.
He would never let it seem lost to her again.
Moon had become his name to this town because of her. Because of her, this town had christened him. Without her, he had been nameless. He had not been Samir or Sam. He had been no one. They knew his name no more than they knew who this girl had been before she was water.CHAPTER 2
lake of autumn
They'd touched each other every day since they were small. She'd put her palm to his forehead when she thought he had a fever. He'd set tiny gold star stickers on her skin on summer days, and at night had peeled them off, leaving pale constellations on her sun-darkened body.
She'd seen the brown of her hand against the brown of his when they were children, and holding hands meant nothing more than that she liked how warm his palm was in the night air, or that he wanted to pull her to see something she had missed. A meteor shower or a vine of double-flower morning glories, so blue they looked dyed.
All these things reminded her of his moons, and his moons reminded her of all these things. He'd hung a string of them between her house and his, some as small as her cupped palms, others big enough to fill her arms. They brightened the earth and wild grass. They were tucked into trees, each giving off a ring of light just wide enough to meet the next, so she never walked in the dark. One held a trace of the same gold as those foil star stickers. Another echoed the blue of those morning glories Sam could find even in the dark. Another was the pure, soft white of the frost flowers he showed her on winter mornings, curls of ice that looked like tulips and peonies.
The one she passed under now was the color of a rose that had grown from her wrist when she and Sam were in ninth grade. She remembered it because, in the hall at school, her sleeve had slipped back, and the rose accidentally brushed the elbow of a girl who recoiled, yelling, "Watch where you're going."
That same afternoon, when the girl's boyfriend broke up with her, she'd blamed Miel and that brush of petals. She cornered Miel in the girls' bathroom, and looked like she was about to backhand her when Sam came up behind her and said, "Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you." His voice had been so level, more full of advice than a threat, that the girl had actually turned around. "You know the last girl who did that turned into a potted plant, right?" he said, and he sold it with such caution and certainty that the girl believed it. She sank into all the rumors about Miel and Aracely, and she backed away.
If Miel hadn't known Sam was her friend before, she knew after that. That was the first and last time he ever went into the girls' room by choice.
Miel could chart their history by these moons, lighting the path between the violet house where she lived with Aracely and the bright-tiled roof of Sam's house.
The closer she got to him, the more she felt it in her roses, like a moon pulling on a sea. Since she was small, the roses had grown from her skin, each bursting through the opening on her wrist that never healed. One grew, and she destroyed it, and another grew, and she destroyed it. But now she hesitated before cutting them, or pushing them underwater so the river's current carried them away. Because for the past few months, they'd responded to Sam. The more time she spent around him, the more her wrist felt heavy and sore. He caught her holding her forearm during school, and stole bags of crunchy, fluffy ice from the chemistry lab for her to put against her sleeve.
If she thought of him too much, her roses grew deeper and brighter; the one on her wrist was now as dark pink as her favorite lipstick.
Tonight, he was waiting behind his house, hands in his pockets. His stance showed neither impatience nor boredom. She always wondered if he saw her from his window, or if he just came outside early, and didn't mind waiting.
"I stole something from work today," he said. The moons gave enough light to let her see he was holding his tongue against his back teeth, proud of his own guilt.
"You what?" she asked.
"Don't worry," he said. "I'll bring it back. I just wanted you to see it. Come on."
Inside, he showed her the brush he used to pollinate each pumpkin blossom by hand.
They only opened for one day, Sam had told her when he started at the Bonners' farm. An explanation for the slow, careful work of taking pollen from each anther and brushing it onto each flower's stigma. That small act made a blossom become a pumpkin. The Bonners gave Sam this task because they thought his skill with brushes covered in paint would translate to brushes coated in pollen.
But Miel had never seen one of the brushes before. Now Sam flicked the oat-colored bristles first against her forearm and then against her rose. For those few seconds, the tiny birthmarks on her arm were grains of pollen, and her rose was the corolla of a pumpkin blossom.
The bristles made her flinch, like the petals growing from her wrist had as much sensation as her fingers. They didn't. Yes, pulling on the stem would hurt her. Knocking the flower head against a kitchen table stung the opening her roses grew from. But the petals themselves were like her hair, rooted in her, but not the same kind of alive as her skin.
For that moment though, of those bristles skimming over that lipstick-colored rose, the sense that those petals could feel as much as her lips or her fingers shimmered through her.
Her eyes flashed up to his.
His eyes were a little more open than they always were, the brown clearer.
The brush and his fingers stilled on her skin.
He hadn't meant it like that. She knew that. She could tell by that startled look.
This wasn't his fingers tracing her back and shoulders, finding stars. This wasn't her checking the flush of his forehead and then leading him home in the middle of a school day. This was a thing that turned into his mouth on hers. This was the pollination brush he'd forgotten to set down, still in his hands as he held her, bristles feathering against her neck. This was the breaking of the strange nervousness that had grown between them over the past few months, a hesitancy to touch that would vanish one day and reappear the next.
She felt the shape of pumpkin blossoms glowing on her skin, waiting for Sam's fingers.
The understanding settled on her that it was Sam, not that wooden-hilted brush, that held the magic of turning a vine-laced field into a thousand pumpkins.
Now Miel's body felt like soft, papery petals. She kissed him back, pushing him toward the stairs, him stumbling up them without turning around. Even with his eyes shut, taking the stairs by muscle memory, he was careful not to crush her rose. She reached for his belt and the top button of his jeans, and he let her. He slid his hand under her shirt, and she let him.
He let her, she let him, and then they were in his bed. The smell of paint made the air in his room bitter, sharp. A tarp covered the floor, his brushes and paints and the makings of half-finished lights scattered in a way that looked disordered to her but made sense to him.
Light from the moons spilled a layer of milky lilac over the floor. They were covered in the blue-green of his bedroom walls, and the smell of spices from his mother's kitchen that soaked into his hair and came off onto his sheets. Orange flower. Green cardamom. Pomegranate molasses. It was so sharp and vivid on him that it made her bite the back of his neck. He startled, then settled into the soft pressure of her teeth, and set his fingers against her harder.
He didn't take off his shirt. She didn't try to take it off him. He never took off his shirt for the same reason he worked on the Bonners' farm. Their school let his work weeding the fields and cutting vines stand in for the PE requirement he'd put off since ninth grade. He couldn't meet it any other way, not if it meant changing for class or team practice in a locker room.
His skin smelled like warm water, not taking on the scent of his soap. She ran her fingers over the faint scarring that shadowed his jawline, from acne he had both grown into and out of early.
The petals of her rose skimmed his neck — she did that on purpose — and then along the inside of his thigh — she did that without meaning to. He shivered, but didn't draw back. Even when her touching him made her rose petals flick against his body, she kept a little distance between him and her wrist so the thorns wouldn't scratch him.
When he traced her skin, the thought of everything he told her about the moon skimmed across her, about the lunar seas and bays. Mare nubium and mare undarum, the sea of clouds and the sea of waves. Lacus autumni and sinus iridum, the lake of autumn and the bay of rainbows. The features he painted with brushes and with his bare fingers.
Excerpted from When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. Copyright © 2016 Anna-Marie McLemore. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
sea of clouds,
lake of autumn,
bay of harmony,
lake of hatred,
sea of islands,
bay of the center,
sea of vapors,
bay of trust,
lake of death,
lake of fear,
lake of solitude,
sea of serenity,
lake of forgetfulness,
marsh of sleep,
sea of waves,
bay of roughness,
lake of winter,
bay of honor,
ocean of storms,
bay of billows,
lake of sorrow,
sea of the edge,
sea of tranquility,
lake of summer,
lake of softness,
lake of dreams,
lake of joy,
lake of goodness,
sea that has become known,
bay of dew,
bay of mists,
lake of spring,
sea of showers,
lake of time,
sea of cold,
lake of perseverance,
bay of rainbows,
bay of love,
sea of nectar,
lake of hope,
Also by Anne-Marie McLemore,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Truly original fantasy! I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore as a buddy-read event for Dragons & Tea Book Club. Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books for the opportunity to read and review this book by providing the ARC! This is a unique story that pulls from deep-seated cultural roots and a little deception. Sam and Miel share trust, loyalty and a special relationship. They also share their community with a group of sisters that could be considered mean girls, with a power they’ve grown so used to, that they do not want to lose it and will do whatever it takes to keep it. Wow! Aracely’s background revelation was something I was not expecting! Sam struggles with the decision of who (what gender) he wants to be in the near future. He’s struggling to the point of desperation. Miel blames herself for the loss of her mother and brother. She thinks the river might give them back to her. The fantastical elements are kind of difficult to understand in this story but I do enjoy the flow of the author’s writing. As usually is the case, the author’s notes are enlightening! They are also helpful in understanding Miel’s fears and Sam’s struggles. I appreciate that Anna-Marie McLemore shares such personal experiences and revelations with her readers! 4 stars for this unique fantasy! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.
I'm really not sure what to say about this book. Once I got past 140~ pages, I was enthralled, but before that, it was a trudge to read and I was beginning to suspect this flowery language wasn't for me. Then the tides shifted and this book was easier to understand and gripped me. The problem I had with the beginning was I didn't understand the motive that kicked off the conflict, which made it hard to sympathize with Miel, one of two main characters and the catalyst for the plot. I did enjoy Samir from the start and I loved his story. When I first started reading, what I really wanted was a book with just his point of view and focusing on Samir and Miel growing up, but by the end, we had gotten enough glimpses into their past that I was satisfied. Oh, and the romance was fantastic. It was so sweet and tender and they clearly care for one another. That was also another reason why the end picked up for me.
This book opened my eyes to so many things. From the struggle of being honest with yourself to the struggle of sharing the truth of your honesty with others. There were many times that I wondered when the characters truths would be told and how the consequences of the lies would be characterized and I was not disappointed. The strength and raw emotion in this book is captivating and personal. I will definitely be recommending this book to every reader I know.
There are some people who are just meant to be storytellers, and Anna-Marie McLemore is one of those people. WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS was absolutely stunning. There is beauty and purpose and strength in every word that McLemore puts on the page, and I loved every single moment of this one. See more reviews at my blog! http://areadingredsox.blogspot.com
Magical realism is one of those genres that I want more of but am also leery of because I tend to either really like it or I don't. When the Moon was Ours falls somewhere in between. Where this book excelled for me was the characters. I'm trying to read more diversely and this book was absolutely beautiful. McLemore has not only included a cast of culturally diverse characters but of different sexualities as well and though I'm not a good judge of the representation, I thought she did a good job in my own opinion. But the book fell a bit flat for me. I like magical realism but usually need a bit more of an explanation for the kind of "magic" included in this book. There were too many different things for me to just go along with it. And though it seems like a lot of people loved the writing style, I just... didn't. Wasn't for me. Nor did I find the plot terribly interesting. The characters were wonderfully created and developed, but this just wasn't the book for me in terms of the writing and story, unfortunately.
The trouble with reviewing a book of this quality is the fact that your own writing will be so inadequate you’re left using bland superlatives in an attempt to communicate the sublime experience you just had. It’s “incredible” “amazing” “beautiful” and really all anyone can take from that is “So you liked it a LOT.” Yes, I liked this story a LOT. This is magical realism at its most powerful. Everyone should read this book!
This is one of those books that you anticipate for a really long time because you've heard nothing but wonderful things about it. And it's also one of those highly anticipated books that live up to your expectations, thankfully. Well... it lived up to mine, anyway! Miel is our main character, and as you can see from the synopsis, she can magically grow roses from her wrist. Beautiful, fragrant roses. But not everyone sees the roses as something beautiful. Sam, though... our other main character, and Miel's best friend, has no problem with the roses growing from Miel's wrist. They have a close bond with each other, unlike anything they've ever had with anyone else, and I absolutely adored this relationship between them. They were the perfect match for one another. I felt I could relate more to Sam's personality than Miel's, but I still loved Miel just the same. "Giving someone else a little of who they were hurt more than giving up none or all of it." Although we have these perfect (to me) characters, we also have the Bonner sisters, who are perfect in everyone else's eyes... but are in no way perfect on the inside. They are mean, cold hearted, and just down right cruel. I didn't like them as people, but I did enjoy them as characters, if that makes sense. I like stories that have all different types of characters and personalities... that's what makes it fun! And that's exactly what I got with When the Moon Was Ours. All of the characters worked so well together to create a great, interesting story. When the Moon Was Ours is magical realism at its finest. A perfect example of non-fantasy having magical elements, and I really loved that about this book. It gave the story life, as if it was living and breathing like you and I. And I was pulled right into this world McLemore had created. "Someday, Sam and Miel would be nothing but a fairytale." The one thing that bothered me about this standalone novel, was the writing in the beginning. It was almost as if the author was attempting to be nonchalantly poetic, but it ended up being more confusing than anything. It took me a minute to wrap my head around the writing, but once I did, I was hooked. And that's all there is to it! Labeled as LGBTQ+, I knew I wanted to read this book, even though I was totally unaware of the reason behind the label. Well, come to find out... all the readers whose reviews I read on this novel did a very (and I mean, VERY) good job at not spilling the beans! (Thank you, non-spoilery reviews!) The twist was fantastic and totally unexpected! The LGBTQ+ representation was done very well, and I applaud McLemore on this aspect of the story. Kudos, kudos, and more kudos! A bit odd and different (in a good way!), When the Moon Was Ours is a really, really good story that a reader can learn a lot from. If you haven't read it yet, you really need to. It's one of those stories that just NEEDS to be read. As much as I wanted to give the book five stars, it just didn't reach that point for me, due to my issues with the writing in the beginning. But it absolutely is worth the four stars I gave it... and it could be worth more to you! Why don't you read it and find out?!
[NOTE: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.] Enchanting and full of diversity, although the flowery prose didn’t convince me. The book opens on Miel and Sam, a skittish girl with roses growing out of her wrist, and a boy who doesn’t exactly know if he wants to be a boy or go back to being a girl. In itself, this was an interesting premise, as both characters were searching for their inner truth, all lthe while being surrounded by lies (or what they perceived at such): Miel’s memory—not exactly the most reliable; what Aracely, Miel’s adoptive guardian, knows and what she doesn’t say; Sam having to hide his body in everyday life; and the Bonner sisters, with their red hair and their mysterious ways, four girls acting as one, enchantresses ensnaring boys and wielding their own kind of power that always gets them what they want in the end. There’s more magical realism than actual magic here, although Aracely’s ability to cure heartbreak, as well as her being a self-professed curandera, definitely hint at ‘witchcraft’. It’s more about the way things are shown and described, in the moons Sam paints and hangs outside people’s windows, in the roses growing out of Miel’s skin, in the rumoured stained glass coffin meant to make girls more beautiful, in how modern life and themes (immigrants in a small town, transgender teenagers, fear of rejection, or the practice of bacha posh, which I didn’t know about before reading this book…) intertwine with poetry and metaphor, with images of rebirth and growing up and accepting (or realising) who you’re meant to be. Not to mention racial diversity, instead of the usual ‘all main protagonists are whiter than white.’ To be honest, though, as much as the prose was beautiful at first, in the end it seemed like it was trying too much, and the story suffered from too many convoluted paragraphs and redundant descriptions & flashbacks. As it was, even though I liked this book in general, I found myself skimming in places that felt like déjà vu. Granted, it’s much more a character- than a plot-driven novel, but I’m convinced all the prose could’ve been toned down, and it would have remained beautiful without sometimes running in circles and drowning the plot now and then.
This book was gorgeous. Read it all, including the dedication and author's note. Every word matters.
Over and over I’ve attempted to summarize this book, but words fail me. Truthfully, some of it I simply didn’t get. What are the flowers growing out of Miel’s wrists all about? Is this based on some existing myth or superstition that I’m not familiar with? Was it simply an unconventional means of making her “other” in the story so that she and Sam could be outcasts together?And those Bonner girls? It felt a bit like a fairytale whose moral I didn’t really grasp. Don’t get me wrong. It was interesting, and in no way detracted from the story, it just made me feel like I was missing something. But. Miel and Sam were amazing. The best part of the book for me was Sam wrestling with who he was now vs. who he saw himself being long-term and coming to terms with that. And Miel loving him no matter what form he felt most comfortable with. It is a rare thing, transgender or not, to find someone who loves you unconditionally, who takes you as you are, and loves and supports you without question. At the risk of repeating myself, I’m really drawn to stories with LGBTQA themes right now because I simply haven’t had a lot of exposure to those stories, and I want to walk awhile in their shoes, to maybe gain a little more insight into what it’s really like living their lives. The fact that the author’s husband is a transgender man lends more authenticity to that part of the story, and I really appreciate that. Perhaps the magical realism isn’t quite for me or maybe I really did just miss something. Regardless, it’s a beautifully written story of love, acceptance, and transformation, and I’d definitely recommend it. If, like me, the magical realism isn’t for you, I urge you to power through. There is so much more to be gained from this story, it will be worth it. Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
"When the Moon was Ours" is a hauntingly beautiful and lyrical masterpiece. McLemore is an incredible storyteller. The words do more than convey the story, but carry another world and emotions with every sentence. The book begins with a local folktale about Moon and Honey, a surprising but frightened young girl and the boy who saves her from her fear, giving her the moon. We learn that they are Sam and Miel, children who fit with each other, even if not society at large. Miel was drowned by her mother out of love to prevent her presumed destructive future (hints of the La Llorona folklore). Miel grows roses out of her arms. She comes from a magical family where this is a curse. In the process, Miel breaks free from her mother, and her brother and mother follow her into the water and also drown. Miel is suspended in the water tower, until it is released and she comes back to life, alone and confused. Sam is the one who rushes to protect her. Sam is carrying his own secret- he is a bacha posh, who later realizes he is transgendered. Miel understands without explanations or fear. The way this is presented is incredible and beautiful, allowing the reader to have the same understandings. Sam and Miel have a beautiful relationship as best friends and lovers, which is threatened by the Bonner sisters with hair the color of flames who carry their own secrets and seem to be witches of a type. The Bonner sisters want Miel's roses at any cost and threaten Sam to get them from her. As bullies, the Bonner sisters are terrifying- their punishment to Miel is to lock her in a glass coffin and leave her there, hungry and barely able to breathe. However, they carry their own secrets and burdens, which are in a figurative sense the glass coffin. This can only be broken by the courageous announcement and acceptance of the truth of the way things are. The story is poetic, imaginative, and captivating. I imagine this book to easily become a classic and is, to me, an important read in how we treat people (some hints of racism and fear of the "other") and the fears/secrets we keep which weigh us down. It is also a poignant romance. I was incredibly moved by the story and writing- this is a book I shall never forget. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
I loved Anna-Marie's first book and was so eager to read the next one. Honestly, I didn't even read the synopsis first, I downloaded it on her name alone. Miel and Sam are fantastic characters. They're both struggling with a part of themselves they don't quite want to show the world. It's simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful to see them navigate the small town they live in. And those Bonner girls had me wondering if I should to jump in to shove them or hug them. As always, Anna-Marie's prose is some of the prettiest I've ever read. Her imagery is amazing and I want to live in these worlds she creates. I could read her characters forever. **Huge thanks to Thomas Dunne and NetGalley for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**