Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

When Emily arrived in Mullaby, North Carolina, she doesn't expect her grandfather to be a giant. He's tall, taller than most people. But he's kind and gentle and is cautious around her. He's not had a teenager around the house for a long time and has no real way how to deal with them. He does however warn Emily about the continuously changing wallpaper in her room. Initially Emily thinks he's joking, but then she sees it for herself and automatically thinks that he's somehow managed to super-quickly change the wallpaper, which is an impossibility because he no longer does stairs very well and confines himself to the downstairs. Added to the ever-changing wallpaper to suit her mood, there is the weird lights in the garden that she sees almost from the start of her stay in Mullaby. They are, according to her grandfather and others that she speaks to, just one of the strange things that happen in Mullaby.

Another strange thing in Mullaby is Emily and her grandfather's neighbour, Julia. Julia has a gift for baking and she seems to bake all the time. She is the owner of a restaurant in the town, but doesn't really run it. She goes in super early, to get baking for the day, then leaves pretty soon as the first customers come in. And there is something a bit magical about Julia's baking. Emily and Julia, despite their age difference, become good friends. And when Emily finds out that her mum, now passed away, used to treat Julia quite badly, she feels bad. And the more she finds out about how nasty her mum used to be to people in Mullaby, the more shocked she becomes because the person she knew, loved and grew up with was maybe not the kindest person in the world, she definitely went out of her way to do good. Who her mum used to be as a teenager and who Emily knew her to be as an adult is a million thousand miles apart.

And when the full extent of what her mum did to cause the entire town to hate her, is revealed to Emily, it blows her world apart. She has to finish high school in Mullaby but doubts that she'll be able to set a foot outside her door. What complicates matters is the fact that she has a growing attraction to a young man who lives in Mullaby and because of what her mum did to the boy's family, she is reviled and persona non grata.

Julia's story is woven in with Emily's. Both of them are broken in some way. Julia's story is one we find out about much later in the book yet it is the one that had the most impact on me as a reader. I loved her story, I loved how things worked out for her, especially near the very end.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my all time favourite writers. There is something about her writing that makes me yearn to be a better writer, to weave intricate characters the way she does. I fall in love with them EVERY SINGLE TIME and sob my heart out when I finish reading them. And then I want to somehow unread them, so I can fall in love with them all over again. I don't know how to describe her writing. It's lyrical and beautiful and charming and funny, but it is also literary and thoughtful and magical and so full of what-ifs, yet you never stop to think: oh, that's not possible in the Real World. I love that and can't press her books on you with enough enthusiasm. I am doing her disservice saying this but if you've watched Practical Magic and even read the novel by Alice Hoffman, you may get a faint inkling what you let yourself in for when you fall in love with Sarah Addison Allen's writing.

My next review will be The Peach Keeper, also by SAA. Because I went into a frenzy and just had to read the newest one too.


Beth Kemp said...

Great review! I love SAA too, having discovered her a few years ago with Garden Spells. Her writing has a quality to it that you capture very well here.

Unknown said...

great review, I love the sound of this book, I might have to check it out!