Cynical adults may often point to the angst of younger generations and claim that they are being overly dramatic, and that they haven’t experienced enough of life to truly know heartbreak or sorrow. However, in The Book of Moon, author George Crowder reminds readers that pain is relative, and the fact that our capacity for sadness grows as we age does not make it any less potent when we are young.
Moon Landing seems like a normal kid growing up in California, but his musings on misfortune parallels to Job, the biblical whipping boy, suggest that he sees things a bit differently than your average teenager. While this book initially strikes as a coming of age tale, fraught with typical struggles of adolescence, it becomes something more profound.
The thing is, Moon’s troubles are not incredibly unique – many parents get divorced, siblings fall out or stumble over things that separate them, and children are forced to adjust to new circumstances all the time. However, where Crowder’s novel soars is in Moon’s intelligent, perceptive and mature reactions to these events.
He is a strange kid, but that isn’t too unusual in California – a place which is a character in itself. The narrative weaves in and out of recognizable locales, painted beautifully with Crowder’s casual language, and it seems like Crowder always has his tongue in his cheek. The prose is whip-smart, and some of the jokes are easy to miss if a reader isn’t paying attention.
A teenager’s perspective on a family falling apart is amusing and tragic at the same time, and Crowder manages to capture that in these chapters – from comparing his mother’s plastic surgery plans to butchering a cow into different cuts to noting the quiet sadness in his father’s slightly inebriated eyes. There is a tenderness to the story, even in the awkward moments of failed flirtation or existential confusion about the future of his family – or whether any of it even mattered.
For a young man, Moon is able to ask himself many of the hardest questions that human beings face, and does so with grace and humor. He turns to spirituality for answers, the fairer sex, and even complete strangers, but Moon’s desire to understand life, and all the ways it can let you down, is touching and memorable. While the premise and progress of the plot is sometimes morose, the overall tone of the book is one of hope, and faith that things will get better…eventually.
Technically speaking, The Book of Moon is very well written, with few grammatical errors, as well as consistent and believable dialogue. The novel also moves at a great pace that leaves room for both poetic reflection and rapid-fire exchanges that will leave readers chuckling.
Crowder may not be a name in fiction yet, but this debut novel is a strong start to his career. His insightful voice can make readers laugh, cry, cringe and reflect within a span of a few pages, and that is something worth celebrating about an author.
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