Overall, I enjoyed it. Yes, twisted, but everything Sebold writes it. The subject content of matricide was more normal to me than Sebold's lesbian ghost surprise ending that I hated in Lovely Bones. Ultimately, I would rate Lucky to be my favorite, then Almost Moon and last, Lovely Bones. This novel is worth the read.
Realistic and well written
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 10 years ago
I actually found this quite a gripping book, which after reading the reviews on here, I wasn't expecting. The story is told in the first person, by 50 year old Helen who is worn down and tired from looking after her elderly mother. I'm not giving anything away by saying that she kills her mother and then over the course of the book we learn more about Helen, her parents and childhood, and her life now. I've not had to deal with any of the issues in the book myself, but I could empathise with the main character, her feelings seemed understandable and even normal in a depressed kind of way. I could imagine the awfulness of looking after someone with dementia. She still had humour...albeit very black - but it appealed to me. I found myself liking the child Helen more than the adult Helen but this was probably intentional on Sebolds part, and made understanding the adult she became a little easier. As her life opens up to the reader we discover more about her parents and her neighbours and their impact on her. In parts I was reminded of 'To Kill A Mockingbird', the ignorance and the insight of various characters. I did find myself understanding Helen more as the book went along...but not always. She liked one of her daughters more than the other which I found hard to relate to, and she had an obsession with dismemberment which was a bit disturbing. Bearing in mind that I haven't experienced mental illness, I did accept the wanderings of her mind to be pretty realistic. Although it's a work of fiction, I really felt it illustrates how much parents, upbringing and experiences influence a child and who they grow up to be.
Maybe you just have to have a very dark sense of humor
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 10 years ago
Well, maybe sense of humor is the wrong term. Maybe an appreciation of a dark sense of the absurd. I give this a higher rating than the other reviewers; the writing is captivating and hypnotic. I didn't like her other books that much to consider this a strong departure from her norm. I have had larger disappointments with what I consider stronger authors--Ann Tyler, Margaret Atwood. I appreciate that she is trying something really different. For $10 at Target, I think this book is worth a try. ps: I find I am struggling to make it through the rest of this book. To quote myself, "hypnotic and captivating" are only good for so long. Then it just gets boring, esp. when you really do not like the main character and the story is going nowhere. Or the story just keeps repeating itself. Also, I am finding the prose to be stilted. She writes "perhaps" instead of "maybe," and stupid lines like "I have always preferred the fall." That might sound nit-picky, but when the writing does not ring true, I lose interest.
Blows The Lovely Bones out of the water!
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 11 years ago
Alice Sebold is dark. Her first wildly bestselling novel dealt with the murder of a child. This novel deals with matricide. It's laid out plainly in the opening line, "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." Me, personally, I've never thought about murdering my mother. And yet, I totally understood how this previously law-abiding citizen wound up in the situation she was in. Sebold had me with her every step of the way. The entire novel actually takes place in just about 24 hours. Forty-nine-year-old Helen is paying a visit to her difficult and declining 88-year-old mother Claire. In a moment of weakness (Or is it mercy?) Helen snaps. She suffocates her mother. This is horrible, but I believe most readers will understand why it happened. Helen had been a virtual slave to her mother for years. Their love/hate relationship is as complex as they come. Although the events of the novel unfold in the course of a day, through flashbacks and memories we really get the story of Helen's relationship with both of her parents as well as her ex-husband, friends, and now adult daughters. Helen is a product of her upbringing. She's become what she had to become. So, when she snaps and kills her mother, I understood it. But from that one pivotal event, she does everything wrong. She compounds her mistake in truly horrible ways. It is the ultimate downward spiral, and watching it is like watching a train wreck--you can't look away. And I couldn't stop turning pages fast enough. You know it will end badly as she pulls others into her nightmare, but you just have to see how it ends. Now I know, and I find it a bit haunting. This is that rare and most wonderful of things, a literary page-turner. The writing is fantastic and the plot compulsive. I saw Sebold speak to a room full of booksellers in June. She said, "This is what you're all wanting to know: Does the follow-up to The Lovely Bones suck?" Let me tell you, it does not suck. Sebold's sophomore effort is a triumph. Read it.
Extremely well written, scary subject matter handled like the pro she is
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 12 years ago
Let me get this out of the way up front: Alice Sebold is an extraordinary author. As a fellow writer, I learn a lot from both of her novels just walking through how she handles a scene, or a flashback, or a set of dialog. Let me also get this out of the way: her subject matter bothers me on levels that I can barely describe. The Lovely Bones was extremely well-written, but, as a father with a daughter, it brought a parent's nightmares to the page. The Almost Moon comes at your from a different tragic perspective, from a middle-aged mother who murders her dementia inflicted invalid mother. The copy I have read is an Advanced Reading Copy graciously given to me at the recent Book Expo America, so the excerpts that I quote may change in the final copy (coming out in October 2007 according to the book's cover). The first paragraph of the first chapter sets the stage excellently for the entire book: When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily. Dementia, as it descends, has a way of revealing the core of the person affected by it. My mother's core was rotten like the brackish water at the bottom of a weeks-old vase of flowers. She had been beautiful when my father met her and still capable of love when I became their late-in-life child, but by the time she gazed up at me that day, none of this mattered. For the next 24 hours, Helen Knightly confronts the events that unfold from the act she has committed and reflects on the events of her life that led her to this decision. Her relationships with her mother, father (who died before her mother), her two daughters, her ex-husband, her best friend and her best friend's son all act as mirrors both past and present for the person Helen is, how low of an opinion she seems to have of herself, where that low opinion stems from and how it motivated her decision to kill her mother. My friend John DeNardo at SF Signal has written that a reader/reviewer reads books and comments on them based on many characteristics: background, mood, etc.. Ms. Sebold's novels certainly bring the reader's family background into play. Having neither parent needing care nor suffering from dementia (at least not that I know of, and as the intro says, I'm the one hearing voices), the book's plot shocked me, continues to shock me, and makes me think. I would surmise that a reader with a family history of taking care of dementia-sufferers or with some other reason to hate one of their parents would be less shocked, may have even contemplated similar actions (whether in fantasy and/or reality), but will also be made to think more by Ms. Sebold's story. The story made me think, even worry and I continue to roll it around in my head. That, combined with Alice Sebold's wonderfully fluid prose: It had been his illness as well as hers. She just garnered more attention. She was always - day in, day out - there. My father had been pity to her blame, warmth to her cold, but had he not, in the end, been colder than she?
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