A little short on story but impressive nonetheless: a first novel that chronicles the travails and triumphs of a rural North Carolina matriarch and her daughters.
Eighty-two-year-old Marvelle Moon gave birth to ten children and buried five during the hardscrabble years of her long and loving marriage to Jesse. She almost envies him for dying first and yearns to join him in the Hereafter, but she’s not quite ready to quit this earthly life. Her grown daughters, Ruth Ann and Cassandra, worry over Marvelle’s increasing frailty and occasional spells of odd behavior, but they’ve got problems of their own. Ruth Ann’s handsome, cheating ex-husband, A.J., won’t stay away; their teenaged daughter Ashley is pregnant out of wedlock, although the young father, Keith, has vowed to take care of her and the baby. Meanwhile, Cassandra has no man in her life and a lot of regrets about chances she’s missed, but she gets through her days with quiet determination. The Moon women, old and young, are great ones for musing, and Duncan deftly handles multiple points of view as they present their hardships and joys in richly textured reminiscences. Marvelle’s are most evocative of all, and much of the time the past seems more real to her than the present. She wanders away one day, venturing into the alien world of a suburban mall. An encounter with two heavily made-up, scantily dressed girls turns into a screaming match when they don’t take kindly to her opinions of their attire and unsolicited advice. Ashley has to rush to her rescue, and not for the last time. The old lady sorely tries everyone’s patience, but she is unquestionably the heart and soul of the Moon family, keeper of all its history—and all its secrets.
Leisurely pace and authentic southern voice: a pleasure to be savored, by a writer to watch.