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The Almost Moon: A Novel [Hardcover]

Alice Sebold
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 16 2007
A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this brilliant, powerful, and unforgettable new novel by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.

For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

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From Publishers Weekly

Sebold's disappointing second novel (after much-lauded The Lovely Bones) opens with the narrator's statement that she has killed her mother. Helen Knightly, herself the mother of two daughters and an art class model old enough to be the mother of the students who sketch her nude figure, is the dutiful but resentful caretaker for her senile 88-year-old mother, Clair. One day, traumatized by the stink of Clair's voided bowels and determined to bathe her, Helen succumbs to a life-long dream and smothers Clair, who had sucked the life out of [Helen] day by day, year by year. After dragging Clair's corpse into the cellar and phoning her ex-husband to confess her crime, Helen has sex with her best friend's 30-year-old blond-god doofus son. Jumping between past and present, Sebold reveals the family's fractured past (insane, agoraphobic mother; tormented father, dead by suicide) and creates a portrait of Clair that resembles Sebold's own mother as portrayed in her memoir, Lucky. While Helen has clearly suffered at her mother's hands, the matricide is woefully contrived, and Helen's handling of the body and her subsequent actions seem almost slapstick. Sebold can write, that's clear, but her sophomore effort is not in line with her talent. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

In her highly anticipated second novel, after the groundbreaking The Lovely Bones (2002), Sebold strikes two notes: grim and grimmer. Within pages, Helen, a middle-aged, depressed divorcée, kills her elderly mother; she spends the next 24 hours reliving her miserable childhood and her attempts to break free of it, coming to the realization that she "had seen the yawning tide that was her mother's need and fallen in." It's not until Helen reaches high school that she realizes her mother is mentally ill, her father is emotionally absent, and her primary purpose is to be her mother's "proxy in the world and to bring that world back home." Although she eventually marries and has two children, moving far away in what she hoped would be "the geographical cure," she ends up divorced and living blocks from her childhood home. With an unwavering focus and detached, downbeat prose, Sebold follows Helen on her seemingly inevitable psychological descent. The result is an emotionally raw novel that is, at times, almost too painful to read, yet Sebold stays remarkably true to her vision, bringing readers close to a flawed woman who lives in a very narrow world, one full of duty, obligation, and pain. Sebold brings to the portrait such honesty and empathy that many will find their own dark impulses reflected here; however, it is so unremittingly bleak that it seems unlikely that it will be greeted with the same enthusiasm as her debut. Wilkinson, Joanne

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Other reviewers are slamming this book because, I suspect, they don't understand the protagonist or her actions. While I don't claim to understand the protagonist's actions either, I can relate to her character. I know about living your entire life trying to be what others want you to be, in the mistaken belief and hope that if you could just be 'right enough' or 'good enough', it might stop your mentally ill (or alcoholic or abusive) mother (or father or other caregiver) from acting the way they do.
I couldn't reject the story outright, because so much of it had relevance for me. I know about doing the wrong things, about not being able to reach out to someone with a hug or encouraging words because that kind of behavior is alien. And even knowing how normal people are supposed to behave isn't always enough to teach an 'abnormal' person how to behave. Knowledge and experience are so different and experience always counts most.
There were times when, as I read the story, I wondered if Ms. Sebold had proposed this objective for the novel: to write about someone who makes all the wrong choices, regardless of her intent. Most readers are voting that such a person can't exist. But I agree that truth is stranger than fiction and such a person probably does exist somewhere. You might not want to ever meet her. But she's out there.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Lucky" indeed Dec 17 2007
Like most people who were enchanted by Seabolds first novel "the lovely bones" I was very excited to finally sit down and turn to the first page of this, her second work of fiction. Twenty pages later and I know that if it wasn't for her earlier book I would have stopped reading this awful tripe a few pages earlier. It is not a good story, nor well written and there are no characters who we care about in the slightest. I did indeed finish the book but grudgingly and it did not get any better, if fact probably worse. Whether Alice Seabold will write anything worthy again is in the lap of the gods, but I think any subsequent work of hers will always include "by the author of "the lovely bones" on the dust jacket and I will bet my last dollar that no future book by hers will ever be published that claims "by the author of "the almost moon".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars don't waste your money. Nov. 8 2011
By Renee
Like most other people who bought this book, I had fallen in love with The Lovely Bones and thought I would do the same with The Almost Moon. This was definitely not the case, and I do not think that this book is worth the money wasted. I have tried to finish reading the book to justify the cost of buying it, only to want to reach into the book and smack some sense into the characters. And I still have not finished it. Final note- I really wish I had read the reviews on this book before I bought it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Topic Nov. 2 2008
By MacFly
The Almost Moon is the second book I've read by Alice Sebold (the other being The Lovely Bones). This book was a bit like watching a train wreck - you couldn't really believe what was happening but you couldn't look away. The main character is not terribly sympathetic - we meet her right after she has killed her elderly mother - but we can all recognize the humanity in her. Sebold is clearly a writer in a different category from most. She tackles the most unusual story lines and holds the reader for the entire novel. While I enjoyed The Lovely Bones more, if enjoy is the right word to use with Sebold's novel topics, I still found this book to be a very good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book Dec 12 2007
Hard to read, but well written. Should she have killed her mother? No. Did she love her mother? Yes. Did she hate her mother? Yes. It's complicated and the lay of the land is rough - the land between mothers and daughters. I think Alice Sebold did an excellent job dealing with this territory and that of mental illness.
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2.0 out of 5 stars meh. Jan. 8 2008
I loved reading The Lovely Bones and Lucky. Both books were amazing. However, I was taken back when I began to read the almost moon. It is well written, but no where close to her others books. It was a bit of a disappointment.
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