I’ve been so busy editing and mothering lately that it’s not often I’m able to read anything purely for pleasure. Not that editing and mothering aren’t incredibly beautiful and fulfilling each in their own ways, I just haven’t been able to sink into a book without an ulterior motive since before Avery was born. (Looking back I realize I reviewed Kamala Nair’s The Girl in the Garden at the beginning of the month, however that book clearly left me underwhelmed since I can’t remember being satisfied with it as a reading option.) Finding something to represent reading for that “just-a-hobby” reason was like drinking a cool glass of water on a hot, humid day. I literally feel as though my soul has being quenched of thirst.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon is not Sarah Addison Allen’s best novel, but that doesn’t make it awful. I’ll get the bad parts over with quickly: partially cheesy dialogue, semi-cheesy romance, predictable plot and outcome. Done. Moving on.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon contains all the magic and sparkle of Sarah’s previous novels, this time in the form of the sweetness of cake and the glow of young love. Emily Benedict moves to her mother’s hometown following her death. Greeted with cold shoulders and dark glances, Emily has no idea that her mother’s legacy is not one the town is willing to forgive. With her eight-foot tall grandfather choosing to spend more time in his bedroom than explaining her past to Emily, she is forced to fend for herself and find out why Mullaby, and a boy named Win, are so mysterious.
Julia has returned to Mullaby for her own parent’s death. Left with her father’s barbecue restaurant and costly mortgage, Julia counts the days until she can leave again and return to the life she’s created since she left Mullaby when she was a teenager. But fate has a different plan for Julia, and the love of her teenage life refuses to let her go so easily.
Surrounding these two stories are the secrets of Mullaby: the lights that glow in the woods every night, the strange townspeople, the Coffey’s and why they don’t leave the house after sunset, the ever-changing wallpaper in Emily’s mother’s room. Each nugget of mystery is almost as magical as Sarah’s other novels, and just as delicious as the cakes Julia bakes every day and night.
While The Girl Who Chased the Moon is not as effortless as Garden Spells or The Sugar Queen, it’s still a delicate, magical morsel of a read. Part of it feels as though the author was grasping at straws, trying to repeat her earlier success with a carbon-copy type of novel. It’s not as original as her earlier works. Still, I do love Sarah Addison Allen’s hold of magical realism; it’s fantastical without being pure fantasy, and seductive without hitting you over the head with its obviousness. She’s still one of my favorite magical realism authors, and I hope The Peach Keeper is a better representation of her skill.