A Nearer Moon
By Melanie Crowder
Paperback, 150 pages
Luna and Willow have grown up in a small town raised on stilts over a poisoned swamp. They’ve heard stories about a time before the damn stilled the river and created the swamp, a time when fairies still roamed the earth. The older generations speak openly of a curse that fell upon the lake and causes a deadly wasting sickness to any who ingest its waters. Luna doesn’t believe in fairies or curses, but she knows to stay away from the still waters on the far side of the swamp. But when Willow ingests some of the water on accident while boating with Luna and falls ill with the wasting sickness, Luna will do anything to save her little sister.
At only 150 pages, this book delivered a touching story about sisterhood, grief and personal belief. This story is a prime example of what I look for and love in middle-grade books. What appears to be a simple story on the surface (pun possibly intended) soon reveals unexpected character depth and a timeline of events that kept the story feeling fresh.
It is a challenge to describe such a short book without giving away the plot. I can say, without revealing too much, that Crowder did an excellent job with the world building. While sparse, the details were key and gave me a strong mental image of the world she crafted.
Luna drives the story and though I didn’t get a solid idea of who little Willow is (aside from being bright and bubbly), Luna’s perspective provided a heartbreaking look at how it felt to have her sister’s life on the line. At such a young age, Luna deals with layers of guilt, because she feels responsible for what happened to her sister and that is compounded when their mother withdraws to the chapel and isolates Luna with her grief.
While Willow drifts away, Luna’s mother finds solace in prayer, while her grandmother watches the moon and stars and speaks of curses from her childhood. Luna scoffs at both practices, preferring to take action, even if useless, to try to cure what ails her sister. However, through the course of the book she comes to understand both perspectives and Crowder manages this without choosing sides or sounding preachy.
There’s a second storyline that runs parallel to Luna and Willow’s, but rather than say anything about it, I’ll just say I felt it strengthened the themes of family and grief.
I recommend this book to readers young and old, lovers of fairies and fans of heartwarming tales.
You can visit Crowder’s website.