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The Almost Moon
Alice Sebold
Little, Brown and Company 2007
304 pages

Beautiful and sensitively written, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold has little similarity to a standard mystery novel but to say it contains no mystery is blatantly wrong. It is simply that of a different kind. Raw and honest, The Almost Moon is captivating.

Page by page this Alice Sebold novel draws you into the world of Helen Knightly, 49, ex-wife, mother, friend, and most importantly, the daughter who for years has loved and cared for a troubled, aging mother caught in the cruel throes of dementia and inevitable decline.

The Almost Moon opens with an event too disturbing to imagine; something that could shatter the family forever if the terrible truth is discovered. The mystery then follows the next 24 hours of Helen's life, exploring her strategies, her fears, her complicated and uncommon past, and those she draws into her disintegrating reality. It is a journey into the deep, sometimes intense dynamics between mothers and daughters, of attachment and separation, and immutable ties amidst an ever present quest for identity.

This Alice Sebold novel is about discovering and doing the right thing when what seems good, right, and rational is not absolute but relative, determined by past history, present circumstances, and what happens when under the burden of family secrets the scales are tiped just a little too far.

As often poetic as it is chilling, The Almost Moon begs to be read slowly to savor every beautiful metaphor and live in each scene. Intense and personal, it delves into the true meaning of devotion, sacrifice, and duty, and the sometimes precarious definition of self.

The Almost Moon will not likely be found on many men's bookshelves or of those who prefer more rough and tumble detective dramas (ed: is that a shot?). Women, on the other hand, will definitely relate and remember.

A gifted and sensitive writer, Alice Sebold challenges us to dig deep into our own psychological roots within the context of the family, and the broader social environment, to examine what shaped our roles of daughter, wife, and mother, and forged our definition of what it is to be a fully fledged woman.

At once beautiful and horrifying, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold is an engrossing and mesmerizing book; one you continue to think about. It is highly recommended.