Book Review: The Almost Moon
The latest release from Alice Sebold, author of the number one New York Times bestseller ‘The Lovely Bones’ and ‘Lucky,’ is ‘The Almost Moon.’ Currently sitting on the New York Times top-10 list, ‘The Almost Moon’ complements Sebold’s collection by continuing her tendency to reduce the spectrum of human emotions to its ugliest form. Sebold, who previously focused on the sexual manifestation of frustration, turns from rape to murder in ‘The Almost Moon.’
The middle-aged Helen Knightly, a woman working to escape from the clutches of her mother’s mental illness, narrates the novel. To complicate Knightly’s struggle, her mother is murdered. The departure of Knightly’s mother forces her to deal with the residuals of the death, such as her mother’s corpse and her own feelings of freedom streaked with guilt. After spending a disturbed childhood caring for her mother, Knightly admits to fierce love and loyalty for her family. At the same time, she experiences a perverse determination to live her own life, which causes her to rejoice in the death.
The cast of characters includes Knightly’s ex-husband, whose goodness is shown in his willingness to aid Knightly in concealing the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. The faults of the other characters are written so naturally that their actions, however extreme, seem more realistic than one would expect from a novel with flowery writing. Simply put, Sebold distills humanity to its core.
In the case of Knightly’s most perverse actions, the reader can find comfort in the fact that her responses to her circumstances are without malice. Sebold seems to suggest that even the sanest person can be driven to insane lengths if the odds are stacked against her. For college students who feel that they just can’t win regardless of the extremity of their actions, Sebold’s clear, patient voice tells them that they are not alone. Furthermore, she offers a main character whose actions are so far outside of normal that readers emerge feeling that their lives are well within the range of normalcy.
The diction of the book may be Sebold’s greatest accomplishment. The novel reads like a book of truth, forcing the reader to accept the rage and hatred of the main character’s words as part of the human experience. Knightly’s unrestrained character propels the events of the novel forward just as Sebold’s diction propels the emotions of the reader deeper and deeper into the tangled web of hatred and love in the mother-daughter relationship. Only through the exploration of the mother-daughter relationship can the reader begin to understand how hatred and love are truly connected.
Sebold offers candid truths on more than mothers and daughters. Nothing is beyond the scope of her biting words, and she offers her opinions with no apology. Take, for example, Knightly’s thoughts on tattoos: ‘I thought tattoos were highly stupid