Today we have a double review for you. As soon as Izzy finished this book, she emailed me to tell me how a character in it totally reminded her of me. Well, I had to read it for that alone. Plus the title is awesome. I didn’t see the lovely cover until this post because I bought it immediately on the Kindle. I finished it not too long after Izzy, hence a double review for your reading pleasure.
P.S. I also give it an A+.
By: Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam Reprint Edition/February 2011 (Trade Paperback)
Copyright Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 304
Reason for Reading: Intriguing Synopsis
Living down your own past was hard enough. You shouldn’t have to live down someone else’s.
He might be tall enough to see into tomorrow, but he hadn’t looked there in a long, long time.
He’d forgotten how bright it was.
So bright he could hardly stand it.
Mullaby, NC is a magical place. The very wallpaper there changes patterns according to one’s mood. When a certain young baker creates her lavish confections, the air swirls with a visible sweetness, creating a tangible path that leads straight from her warm, earthy kitchen to the too-empty home of an old friend. A shy and quiet giant lives peaceably among mere mortals and at night, the strange Mullaby lights glow mysteriously in his woody overgrown backyard. It is to magical Mullaby where teenaged Emily Benedict is sent after the death of her mother, Dulcie.
Emily had never even heard of Mullaby before arriving there; had never known she had a gentle giant of a grandfather; had never known that her activist civic-minded mother grew up in an idyllic town where mysterious things are wont to happen. And she most especially never knew her mother’s darkest secret: why she left Mullaby and why she never returned. From her first day there, the Mullaby townspeople act strangely toward Emily, some regarding her with pity and others regarding her with clear loathing. It makes no sense to Emily and to compound the frustration, no one will explain or tell her anything about Dulcie at all, not even her grandfather.
Then there’s Emily’s neighbor, the beautiful and kind Julia Winterson. Though she’s only returned to Mullaby temporarily, she can’t help seeing something in Emily that calls to her. As Julia struggles to forget the past, Emily slowly begins to unravel it. The result will either free Mullaby from its secrets or doom Emily into repeating the very same mistakes her mother made.
Sarah Addison Allen has created a whimsical fairy tale in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. The setting is so lush and detailed, yet almost dream-like. I could smell the cakes baking and feel the night breeze as it blew the leaves about Emily’s balcony, and I could feel the heaviness of the Mullaby lights as they glowed brightly outside Emily’s window. This is such a beautiful little novel and though the ending was quite satisfying I was left wanting more. I think that’s the mark of a great story and Allen has it in spades. This is the first book of Allen’s I have read and I can recommend it highly with absolutely no reservations. This is one book I am thrilled to have on my bookshelf.
BONUS: Recipes. I am not a foodie and I’m not a big fan of baking, but Allen’s descriptive writing made me long for the closest bakery. Allen provides recipes for several of the most intriguing cakes Julia bakes throughout the story.
“The one night they’d had together they’d lain side by side on the high school football field, staring up at the starry night she’d never seen the likes of before or since, and he’d told her a story of how his mother used to bake cakes on summer afternoons and, no matter where he’d been, it had sent him to her, a beacon of powdered sugar flowing like pollen in the wind. He’d sensed it, he said. He’d seen it.
Cakes had the power to call. She’d learned that from him.”
After the death of her mother, Emily finds herself living with the grandfather she never knew she had in a strange little town. A town that houses giants, ghostly lights hiding in the forest, wallpaper that changes on a whim, and cakes that have the power to call.
At first glance, the story would seem to be Emily’s, but it felt more like the story of Julia and the town of Mullaby itself. Julia grew up in Mullaby an outcast. As soon as she graduated she fled without ever looking back. That is, until her father’s death. She reluctantly returns. When she realizes she’d be better off paying her father’s restaurant mortgage in full so she can make a profit, she imposes a strict two-year deadline on herself. She sacrifices usual comforts so she can put nearly all of her earnings to pay off this debt.
Emily’s arrival is the catalyst for a series of encounters that slowly act to unravel Julia’s plan. Julia learns to confront her demons and ask more of life. She finds the courage to be brave, confront old regrets, make space for love and hope.
I loved loved loved this book. I adore magical realism (when done right.) Allen’s touch is perfection: neither heavy-handed nor silly. Her descriptions are lush and whimsical. She vividly creates settings and characters that instantly draw the reader in.
Since I’ve finished this one, I’ve already gobbled up Allen’s first two novels. That is how much I am in love with this author. I won’t stop until I’ve read everything she’s published, and I’m sad I have nothing left. Because I’m a glutton for punishment that way. 🙂
“There was a mood of magic and frenzy in the room. Crystalline swirls of sugar and flour still lingered in the air like kite tails. And then there was the smell-the smell of hope, the kind of smell that brought people home. Tonight it was the comfort of browning butter and the excitement of lemon zest.”