Yet another book that I heard about on The Next Chapter, Mary Walsh’s debut novel Crying For The Moon was a great recommendation and had me engaged from start to finish. The story follows the first person narration of young Maureen in 1960s Newfoundland. It’s a poignant coming of age story crossed with a low key mystery wherein adult things start happening to the average, non-adult Maureen. She finds herself being forced to grow up sooner than any teenager should. Now, when I say she ‘grows up,’ I don’t mean right away, nor do I mean that she does it with responsibility or grace or confidence or smarts–quite the opposite actually, for the most part. Maureen’s simple, passive, and simultaneously reactive nature is partly what allows herself to become tangled up in these adult situations, and she learns quickly that no one’s going to help her get out of it, except herself.
Though the story as a whole was good, the first part of the book was a bit of a downer as it does touch on some sexual content that is less than ideal. Although Walsh doesn’t explicitly delve into it or linger on those scenes, they were still disheartening to read. Perhaps the most disheartening part though is the fact that Maureen doesn’t seem to think about it much or realize the true nature of what is happening to her. Or at least, if she does, she doesn’t seem to care enough to let us in on it in her head. Which personally I thought was a bit unrealistic for a first person character not to do. On the other hand, I’m glad it wasn’t the focus of the novel, and I found the later parts more enjoyable to read in terms of content.
Despite some of the dark stuff, the story does carry a touch of wit and humour throughout it. Maureen has a very strong, distinct narrating voice that comes alive on the page, especially with the Newfoundland dialect. Her voice, and all of the other character’s voices too, felt genuine and unique; it’s probably the main reason why I found the story so engaging. Walsh also excels at providing a good balance between character development and plot. Usually I find books are either very character driven or very plot driven, and it can be hard to get that sweet balance in between; but Walsh’s novel is equally fleshed out on both ends of the spectrum. Maureen’s internal choices certainly set things into gear, but rather than being too much in her head all the time dragging the narration down, there was the other side of it–the external forces happening around her out of her control. Both drove the story forward.
Overall, Crying For The Moon is a well written piece of work regardless of the storyline, and I’d definitely recommend reading it if you like coming of age stories, or stories set in the 1960s. Not only that, the graphic artwork style on the cover is very cool, and I discovered that if you hold the book in just the right light, it has hidden reflective images on the front and back that are significant to the story. Certainly adds a fun little touch!