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MOONPIE AND IVY by Barbara O’Connor Kirkus Star


by Barbara O’Connor

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: March 7th, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-35059-0
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The twin challenges of loving and being loved form the theme of another Southern gem from the author of Me and Rupert Goody (1999). Twelve-year-old Pearl has spent her life moving from one place to another with her feckless mother, Ruby, who seems more interested in her boyfriend-of-the-moment than her daughter. At the novel's opening, Pearl finds herself uprooted once more, but with one major exception: this time, Ruby has left her with her aunt, Ivy, and then disappeared completely. Understandably resentful and unaccustomed to affection wholeheartedly offered, Pearl keeps Ivy at arm's length, and only grudgingly consents to a sort of friendship with Moonpie, the strange boy who lives up the hill with his dying grandmother. Pearl's emotional state is charted in the postcards she writes, but cannot send, to her mother: "Dear Mama, I hate you. Love, Pearl" is succeeded by "Dear Mama, Please come back—but if you can't come right away, that's okay. Love, Pearl." As she begins to relax into her new life, she realizes that she likes stability, but Ivy's love for Moonpie, who is a sort of surrogate son, threatens her fragile security. O'Connor keeps the beautifully simple, colloquial third-person narration filtered tightly through Pearl, so the reader encounters her emotions and her confusion directly. The squalor of poverty is rendered without sentimentality, but the honesty and universality of the characters' emotions inform the real story. The novel's shrewd observations of the tangles of human relationships allow no easy happy endings: Ruby's reappearance at the end interrupts Pearl's slow realization that she can love and, more importantly, is worth loving. But she has learned to hope, and that is no small thing for her—and the reader—to carry away. (Fiction. 10-14)