Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Spotlight on: The Moonflower Vine
It is in the heat of summer that The Moonflower Vine begins. Youngest daughter of the Soames, Mary Jo, describes the annual pilgrimage to her parent's farm in Missouri where she and her sisters converge on their elderly parents for a 'vacation' that is part obligation, part reunion. These adult daughters allow themselves to be parented as they help out with what seems like a primitive farm. Everyone seems to resist intrusion on this short time together, yet social obligation intrudes. We see what appears to be a happy family, led by God-fearing father Matthew and thick-skinned and hardworking mother Callie. We see what looks like an ordinary family gathering, with openness and good-will all around. We wonder what author Jetta Carlson could possibly have to say about this ordinary seeming group of people for 300 or so pages.
The story changes from first person to third as each member of the family is revealed to us, one by one, from Matthew, to Callie, sandwiching their daughters, including one who is deceased. Suddenly our preconceived notions are shattered. What looked like one thing is shown to be very much another as the inner lives of these characters are revealed, showcasing most prominently their romantic lives.
This is heady stuff, let me tell you. I was a little bit shocked (and disgusted by one of the characters) in 2009, think what original readers of this novel thought in 1962! I was taken in by the tagline of this book:
A Timeless American Classics Rediscovered - An Unforgettable Saga of a Heartland Family
Saga? Rediscovered classic? Count me in.
I began this book knowing only what the back cover said. Didn't read the introduction, nor the 'extras' in the back. Didn't read any spoiler-y reviews. Thus, I think that is how this book is best approached, though of course now you know more than I did!
In any case, I do recommend The Moonflower Vine: A Novel (P.S.). For the surprising turns it takes and for the gorgeous cover you can gaze at on your nightstand.