Thursday, April 10, 2014

What the Moon Said, by Gayle Rosengren

Set during the Great Depression -- an era we are often told is overdone in historical fiction -- this wonderful MG novel follows ten-year-old Esther from Chicago to a Wisconsin farm after her father loses his job in the city. From the beginning, it's filled with specific details that surround Esther and her sister as they make their way to a movie theater for a Rin Tin Tin matinee -- streetcars, a bread line, childhood games of the 1930s. But no details are as vivid to Esther as the signs her mother notices: a ring around the moon, dropping a spoon at supper, seeing a spider before breakfast, putting shoes on a table. All of these, and many more, foretell the good or bad luck that will befall their family, and Esther is proud that her mother learned so many important things back in Russia. Now, if only her mother would hug and kiss her. But Ma is a serious, even stern woman, and seems even more so toward Esther than her siblings. Wondering why she isn't loved as much as the others, Esther makes it her objective to please her mother so much that she'll win the affection she longs for.

It's this affecting goal that forms the through line of the story that follows Esther's adjustment from city to farm life. There are ups and downs, hard work and fun, until the day Ma "reads" a sign that Esther knows must be wrong. If she defies Ma she'll never gain her love, but can she be cruel to a new friend on Ma's say-so?

I loved the mother/daughter aspect of this story, the love of the family members that shows through despite the lesser physical affection true to the era, and the fact that Ma, as well as Esther, has to learn the hard way that not everything she thinks she knows is accurate. Heartwarming and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

13 comments:

janet smart said...

I loved that book, too! My grandmother was very superstitious. And I also grew up with them - they were passed down through the family. I agree with you, I highly recommend this book.

Bish Denham said...

Okay, this one is definitely being added to my TBR list, now reaching to the moon!

Leandra Wallace said...

This was on my TBR awhile back, as soon as I saw that cover! And poor girl, I've never understood those stand off types of people. I'm always grabbing my little guy up for squeezes and kisses. B4 long he'll prolly be shrugging me off, so I've got to get them in now! =)

Marcia said...

Janet -- That's so interesting. My family wasn't superstitious at all. Every superstition I ever learned was from a friend. Probably starting with "Step on a crack." :)

Bish -- You'll love it.

Leandra -- My kids, two of them boys, never went through the "shrug it off" stage -- maybe yours won't either! DH and I slobbered all over our kids. :) We didn't grow up with nearly that much affection ourselves, especially DH didn't. And before that, physical affection from parent to child wasn't really very prevalent at all.

Mirka Breen said...

Seem like you found another gem, Marcia.
I wonder if we could make a list of books with MOON in the title... Isn't Moon Over Manifest set in the great depression, too?

Vijaya said...

Sounds beautiful. I too wanted more physical and demonstrative love while growing up. I still remember questioning my mother once, and she said, "Of course, is your head filled with potatoes and onions. Now come here and slice these carrots." Yup.

And now I have to demand hugs and kisses from my kids, even though they grew up being nibbled on. Thank God for my physically affectionate husband. Have you read the Five Love Languages? It gives great insight into how we give, receive and perceive love.

Marcia said...

Mirka -- It is, and last year I was thinking the same thing about STARS. There were SO many STARS books published in 2013.

Vijaya -- Yes, my mother would write "We love you," but neither parent ever said it. That was absolutely the norm, as far as I knew. And while I'm on that subject, friends never hugged until I was in my late 20s. All the time I was in HS and college? Friends NEVER hugged, except for once in a great while in college if something really great happened. And I'm wondering when exactly that rule got rewritten.

Kelly Hashway said...

I LOVE this cover! Seriously love it. Just wow!

Marcia said...

Kelly -- It's great, isn't it?

cleemckenzie said...

This one sounds like a great family story, something I always enjoy reading. The period is also fascinating to me. Such hard times that my grandmother told me about.

Marcia said...

Lee -- I agree on both counts!

Dawn Malone said...

What a beautiful cover! And it sounds like a fabulous book!
I had never had experience with superstitious people until a few years ago as we were walking out of church. A black cat ran across the parking lot, and an older lady saw it. She screamed and covered her eyes, and started ranting about what bad luck it would bring. My daughter and I were speechless!

Marcia said...

Dawn -- Wow! I was amazed to learn several years ago that black cats are often not adopted from shelters for this reason. Or abused on Halloween. Poor kitties. :(