Valley of the Moon: A Novel by Melanie Gideon

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“How to wait,” she said, looking down at me with pity. “It’s the hardest thing to learn.”

 

Lux is torn between two times (which may as well be two worlds), a single mother with the demands of raising her son Benno , she isn’t free to stay at the glorious place either she has conjured with one heck of an imagination or  that truly exists. Connected to nature in a way so many people neglect to embrace, Lux recharges her soul camping in Sonoma. It is how she keeps keeps herself strong in the chaos of raising Benno alone. Those of us that need nature have an affinity for her character.  Nature isn’t as quiet as many think, it has it’s own form of noise but it soothes us. It is an energy that feeds, rather than saps. A fog that beckons her leads her to a community called Greengage, a place removed from modernity. Their clothing is old fashioned and certainly not cheap costumes. Are they some crazy cult? Is this a movie set?  Is time standing still for these people? Could it be possible? The fog is a threatening dangerous presence for them, where Lux is free to come and go through without losing her life.  She does , however, lose time (a loss of life in it’s own way) the people of Greengage cannot enter the fog without harm. Their leader, Joseph Bell is at a loss to figure out how to save his people. He is swamped with guilt. Having started Greengage as a place where everyone pulls their weight to help each other, it has turned into a living nightmare entrapping them all. Is the earthquake the cause of all their suffering, the event that brought the fog and Lux?

Fall back to 1906  on the other side of the fog: Joseph is married to Martha, and yet he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Lux. A man with a curious nature, yet steady presence he is fascinated by her modern ways. There is nothing nightmarish about Greengage for her, and that makes her a mystery. Could she be his people’s salvation? Unlike  1975 and all her hardships (the bills she has to pay, the strain between her and her father, the difficulties of raising a child alone) here she finds a farming community free of all the attachments and distractions of the modern world. Joseph works alongside his hundreds of people, all are connected to nature as a means of survival, a sort of ‘off the grid’ so many can only idealize. Lux admires Martha for her strength and knowledge of herbs, her wisdom. She is beyond charmed by the place but how much time can a mother afford to lose when she has a son to raise, naturally she must sacrifice her desires once she discovers that just like everything one hungers for in life, it has teeth. Complications arise within her family because of time loss, and how can she possibly explain to her son that she hasn’t abandoned him without sounding insane? Even if her friend Rhonda, who has been vital to her ‘mini-breaks’ by caring  for Benno, can be convinced she is telling the truth, it is impossible to prove to everyone else.

The past, anytime I read about traveling back in time (I am one of those nostalgic for bygone times rather than the future) brings to mind two things: A Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris” and a video I love on the internet from Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows called Anemoia. How can you be nostalgic for times your haven’t lived in? And why do we always think the past is better than the present (which is the humor of Allen in the movie I mentioned). The past just charms some of us, we romanticize it and it’s a beautiful escape to read about a woman going back in time. Her heart is split in two, with her son and with the people of Greengage. How will she create a life when she is half in it? You have to read to find out. It isn’t only a romance, it is interesting how the fog is both terrifying and a gift. This is a bit of it’s own genre. This is a darling tale.

Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine

Publication Date July 26, 2016

 

 

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