I’ve waxed eloquently (or not so eloquently) on how much I love Sarah Addison Allen and the way she writes here. She often makes me despair as a writer, because I want to elicit the same emotions from my audience in one book that she seems to in a page. She uses food and the magic of everyday life to bring stories alive and turn them into fairytales. Two days ago I treated myself to The Girl Who Chased the Moon, which has been on my audiobook wish list FOREVER and I finished listening to it today.
The story centers around a young teenage girl, Emily, and an older, mid-thirties woman, Julia. Emily’s mother, Dulcie, passed in a car crash, leaving Emily to move in with a grandfather she’s never known, in a town of people who seem to blame her for a mysterious crime her mother committed. When she meets Winn Coffee, the mystery increases until she’s forced to see her mother in a whole new light.
Julia bakes cakes every day, desperately trying to leave her past behind her. But when the only man she’s ever loved, who rejected her when they were younger, comes back into her life, she must remember so that she can move on.
Okay, some spoilers coming…
I liked the tension between Julia and her love interest, Sawyer. This wasn’t just some “oh, he rejected me in high school” thing. Julia was pregnant and he encouraged her to get an abortion. That’s heavy stuff. And it was handled well. Julia doesn’t immediately forgive him and Sawyer isn’t okay simply waiting forever for her. They both get angry and frustrated and deal well with their grief. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I really liked how Allen wrote both of them and their ending. It made me long for a sequel. I also liked the magic bit of their story, as I typically do in her books. Sawyer has what is referred to as a “sweet sense.” He sees sweetness like pixie dust over everything and that’s one of the things that draws him to Julia: her baking. It sounds weird, but her baking is a defining characteristic. It’s one of the things that brings them together.
“I’m homesick all the time,” she said, still not looking at him “I just don’t know where home is. There’s this promise of happiness out there. I know it. I even feel it sometimes. But it’s like chasing the moon – just when I think I have it, it disappears into the horizon. I grieve and try to move on, but then the damn thing comes back the next night, giving me hope of catching it all over again.”
Emily’s story was far more outlandish, but sweet. It all starts when she sees the Mulberry lights outside in her backyard her first night there. She’s told that they appear occasionally and that they are nothing to worry about. Town legend says that they’re ghosts, wandering the woods in hopes of finding peace. Winn Coffee is stifled in his family, which clings to tradition. They have a secret, which everyone now knows (thanks to Dulcie, Em’s mom), but they refuse to outwardly acknowledge it. So he breaks the mold and befriends Emily. He was a little too perfect. There were times when he admitted to manipulating her feelings, but it’s like it was instantly forgiven. His little rebellion had few consequences. And in the end, when everything is revealed, Allen went a little Twilight on us. Winn admits that he’s snuck into Emily’s room a few times and watched her sleep. Um, creepy much? But she just laughs it off. I wouldn’t. Hello, creepy teenage boy. What’s that you say? You’ve been stalking me? IN MY SLEEP?! GET OUT!
“We have history, you and I. You just don’t know it yet…History is a loop. We’re exactly where they stood twenty years ago. What’s theirs is ours, what’s ours will become theirs.”
Julia and Emily live next door and Julia takes Em under her wing, because she knows things will be hard for her in Mulberry. Their relationship was sweet and full of interesting advice.
“Some men you know are Southern before they ever say a word,” Julia said as she and Emily watched Sawyer’s progress, helpless, almost as if they couldn’t look away. “They remind you of something good–picnics or carrying sparklers around at night. Southern men will hold doors open for you, they’ll hold you after you yell at them, and they’ll hold on to their pride no matter what. Be careful what they tell you, though. They have a way of making you believe anything, because they say it that way.”
I loved the little details that were added. Like Emily’s wallpaper. It changes on it’s own to fit her mood. When she arrives, it’s lilacs. Then it changes to butterflies. I wish that I had a room like that. Also, her grandfather, Grandpa Vance, is over eight feet tall. She describes him so well. I love the quirks he has because he’s so tall.
“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. ”
And there is this part with two sisters who dress identically and carry one handbag between them. It’s fantastic.
Let me just say, that if S. A. A. cooks as well as she writes, life simply isn’t fair. Every single one of her books is overflowing with new recipes and food I’ve never heard of and this one is no exception. Applestack cake, Hummingbird cake, barbecue, madeleines, and so much more. She has recipes on her website that I am anxious to try.
I loved this book and am excited to dig in to another one soon.