The Almost Moon Review
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In one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the season, Alice Sebold (author of The Lovely Bones and the memoir, Lucky) opens The Almost Moon with a nothing less than a bang: “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.”

On one particularly difficult evening with her 88-year-old mother, Clair, years of anger and hatred and frustration rise to the surface—and Helen smothers the old woman to death. Realizing what she’s done—but not knowing what to do about it—she calls her ex-husband for help.

At first, she just wants to escape—a feeling that leads her straight to her best friend’s handsome but lazy son. But over the next 24 hours, as Helen tries to face what she’s done—and what she must still do—she looks back on her life with her mother, a former lingerie model who always resented the life she settled for. She looks back at her childhood—and at the time when she was in high school, when she finally realized that her mother was mentally ill.

No matter how much she hated her mother, though, Helen couldn’t escape. She got married. She moved away. She had two daughters of her own. But she still ended up back in her hometown, working as a nude model for art students to pay the bills—but devoting her life to caring for her mother.

The Almost Moon is beautifully written—with powerful imagery and breath-takingly strong emotion. But it’s not an easy read. There’s absolutely nothing light—or even hopeful—about it. It’s heavy, and it’s often grim. But probably the best word to describe it is uncomfortable. Helen is brutally honest about her feelings and her actions—and her honesty isn’t something that’s easy for the reader to stomach. It’s not easy to read the gruesome details of an old woman’s decline—and it’s so detailed that you can almost smell it. It’s not easy to read about the things that Helen does—because it’ll make you feel ashamed for her. And it’s not easy to read about Helen’s fears of ruining her own child’s life—as her mother ruined hers—because who doesn’t worry about the effect her actions could have on her own children? The Almost Moon digs up all kinds of feelings and emotions and fears that most people don’t want dug up. And that makes it a difficult read—but it also makes it a powerful read.

Though it’s incredibly well-written, The Almost Moon won’t sit well with most readers. While I can definitely appreciate the skill that went into writing it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was an enjoyable read. I do love a good challenge every once in a while—but it’s difficult to make it through a book that’s as dark and heavy as this one. By the time it’s over, it makes you feel as though you, too, have been slowly smothered.

If you do choose to take on the challenge, be sure to have some light, fluffy chick lit nearby—because that’s exactly what you’ll need to help you recover once you finish reading this staggeringly heavy novel.

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