Thursday, January 12, 2017
Magical Realism: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Summary: Right from the first time they meet, Miel and Sam seem destined to be friends. When Miel suddenly appears in town one day when the old, rotten water tower falls down, Samir is the only one willing to come to her assistance while the rest of the townsfolk stand and gape. From that moment on the two become fast friends, friends who know each other's secrets and are willing to keep them. Their secrets could destroy both of them if others found out---Miel's has big secrets about her family and her past; Sam's secrets center around gender and his birth name. In addition, the two friends are bonded together in a love of light from the moon. Sam is known around the community for hanging up his painted moons all around town. Miel is comforted by their light and presence.
Around the time that the relationship of the two friends evolves into one filled with passion, readers are introduced to the Bonner girls, the queen bees of the town. These four sisters will do anything to maintain their power and control on the boys in their town, including stealing Miel's special and magical gifts, and dragging Sam through the mud.
Will the power of friendship save them or will their secrets tear them apart?
Review: I am a sucker for love stories and I've always had a penchant for tales which feel like they have emerged from the Brothers Grimm. When the Moon Was Ours fulfills those two requirements quite handily. Miel and Samir clearly love and accept each other yet neither is completely honest about the secrets that threaten to implode and destroy both of them. As with all good fairy tales there is a palpable and foreboding sense of evil due to the pervasive presence of the Bonner sisters. I found myself wanting to scream at Miel every time she fell into the trap of interacting with one or more of the sisters.
Now to be fair, I know that there were lots of elements in the story which are a bit odd, things like roses growing out of Miel's wrists and pumpkins turning into glass as the Bonner girls seemingly lose their magical stranglehold on the community. But I like magical realism. The magical elements often point to symbolism or to cultural folktales. I like discovering the magic and mythology behind the magic...if you know what I mean.
" Readers will be ensnared in this ethereal narrative long before they even realize the net has been cast" (Kirkus Reviews).
I was clearly caught by the net cast by the storyteller. I was enraptured by both the story and delighted by the symbolism and the few cultural gems I was able to glean. But the real frosting on the cake was when I learned about the author's own history and her own love story, revealed in the author's notes at the end of the book, which caused me to sigh appreciatively. It not only opened my eyes but also my heart. I don't want to give away any big spoilers to take away from your own reading experience, But suffice it to say, it is a lovely, magical story.
Edition: print, checked out from my library. Copyright date, 2016.