Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Falling from the Moon by Lise Marinelli

It is now 2010 and I am still working my way through books I got at BEA'09 (Book Expo America) last May. Talk about procrastination! But I promised the authors I would read their books and would write about them, and no matter how late it is, I stick to my promise. Now, the reason it took me so long to read Falling from the Moon is that I got to meet Lise and the publishers of her book. I talked with the ladies (yes, Windy City Publishers are all female) and honestly fell under their spell. Everyone at the booth seeped excitement about Falling from the Moon and about their company. Ms. Marinelli and the girls from Windy City Publishers were such nice, easy going people that I dreaded not liking the actual novel. Having read the book, I am now only sorry I waited this long.

Falling from the Moon is a coming-of-age story in the '30s and '40s small Michigan town. We follow the lives of two families, the Harris's and the Conklin's, as the children grow up, the adults live with their secrets and almost everyone has a cross to bear. In the center of things is Adeline, an easy going and outspoken girl, a third child of George and Susie Harris and a best friend to Lucy Conklin. Adeline, or Addy as she's called by most of the people, knows how lucky she is to have loving parents, to live a fairly comfortable and worry-free life. She knows because she sees that her best friend Lucy and Lucy's older brother Jack have it much, much worse. Their mother died in childbirth, their father is an aggressive drunkard and they also have to take care of their youngest sister who is brain-damaged. Life is not easy for the Conklin children but they still manage to see life as glass half-full instead of half-empty. As Addy and Lucy grow up to be teenagers, relationships bloom. Lucy's in love with Earl, Addy's older brother and Addy shares a special connection with Jack. That is until Addy inadvertently looses Jack's trust, family tragedy strikes not once but three times and the kids all of a sudden have to grow up faster than they wanted.

I read Falling from the Moon in one day and was sorry that it ended so quickly. Usually, I am not a fan of growing-up, coming-of-age type of stories, but in this instance I have to say I was caught off guard. All the characters were very real, very believable and I could just see myself standing on the outskirts of the town, observing them all as the families struggle through life and try to make the best of what they have. I really liked Adeline, as a little girl and as a high school teenager ready to enter adult life. She is so full of life, she always knows what she wants and really pretty much never whines or complains. I was rooting for her even when her choices were horrible because I just somehow knew she would pull through. When I think of it, there really wasn't a single character in the book that I outright despised. There were a couple of candidates but in the end, nothing was black and white and this is probably what I like the most in any novel.

Lise Marinelli's writing style suited me perfectly. It's crisp, fresh and very straightforward. You won't find any convoluted, unnecessary 'page-fillers' here. Every page, every passage has a purpose, tells a story and leads a reader somewhere meaningful (I can't say where that is, it would spoil the book for future readers). The story is told by different narrators and I know that not all of you like that. Addy is the one that gets the most 'stage-time' but we also get to see the whole picture from other, important points of view. Personally, I like this style and when it's done well (as it is by Ms. Marinelli), I feel that it gives me more opportunities to know each character better. There really isn't anything that I could count as a minus in Falling from the Moon. Well, maybe that it was too short for me and the 'saga junkie' in me already sees the great potential for more stories about the Conklin's and the Harris's. I now hope and keep my fingers crossed that Lise will decide to turn Falling from the Moon into a true generational saga.

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Lise Marinelli and Windy City Publishers will again be present during Book Expo America '10. If you are planning to attend, make sure you visit their booth to find out for yourself how nice they are.