Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

Finally! It's been a really long time since I've read a book that I truly love. A book that I am excited to recommend. After months (and I do mean months) of lamenting my dearth of good books, I've finally read a book that I'm excited to review - The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. I have no recollection of how I heard of The Moonflower Vine, but I'm so glad that I did.

The Moonflower Vine was written in 1962 and it was Carelton's first and only book. After reading the forward, written by Jane Smiley, I came to understand that like many books, The Moonflower Vine had become all but forgotten over time. Then in 2005, Smiley wrote a book called 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, in which she discusses 100 novels (among other things), which led to the reissue of The Moonflower Vine in 2009.

The story takes place in rural Missouri in the first half of the 20th century and tells the story of Matthew and Callie Soames and their 4 daughters. It reminded me in style of To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and So Big. It's a very good story, simply told. The characters are all rich and complex, yet they are simple, moral people trying to live good lives. The story could have been told in a sensationalistic way, but instead Carleton chose to tell the story in a more realistic and subtle way. It's the story of regular people, who see themselves as being essentially good, yet they all struggle with secrets and flaws. What makes it so authentic is that they know they are flawed and they wrestle with the that knowledge and the fact that it doesn't fit in with their own or society's view of them. It's a great story. I couldn't wait to see how the story would play out, yet I didn't want it to end. 5 stars - It was amazing.

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