Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: What the Moon Saw

Earlier this summer I found myself in Denver for a meeting. It is impossible for a book person to visit Denver without making a pilgrimage to one of the greatest independent bookstores in the country, The Tattered Cover. What made the trip even better was that I was in the company of three other book lovers. Once we walked into the store together, we dispersed to the four corners of the store and met up again two hours later.

The reason I share this is that before I ever opened the cover of What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau which I purchased there, I already had warm and positive feelings about this book written for young teens. And I was not disappointed.

Clara Luna's name means "clear moon" in Spanish, but other than learning to speak Spanish from her father, there is not much connection between her life in suburban Walnut Hill and the life her father left behind in the rural hills of Mexico. One day a letter arrives out of the blue from Clara's Mexican grandparents inviting her to spend two months of the summer with them. Even though she has never met them or heard from them before, it is decided that she will go. Struggling with curiosity, fear of the unknown, reluctance to leave her life in Walnut Hill and her friends for the summer, Clara also feels a compulsion to go. Dreams and feelings she cannot even articulate are pulling her there.

The story of what Clara finds in Mexico is one of the most beautifully written stories I've read in a long time. The language is rich, luscious, and evocative. Prose written by a poet. Among other things, it presents a picture of rural Mexico caught between the traditional lives of the people and their connection to the land and each other with the reality of uprooted lives as men have left the region and their families behind to make a life for themselves in the United States. What they leave behind and the sacrifices their families make is a poignant commentary on the "other" side of the immigration debate.

What Clara learns and the connections she makes with her grandparents and the people of the mountain village of Yucuyoo is not to be missed. I cannot recommend this story highly enough. It is wonderful.


Joey said...

Wow! You have captured the essence and style of this beautiful book so well that I might just have to go buy it! It made me miss the years when I would buy wonderful books for my classroom and bring them home to read first. I always loved young adult fiction...
This book seems very timely, and reminds us that the real, human issues of immigration are often buried under politics and strong but uninformed emotional reactions.
Thanks! Joey

Annie said...

Thanks for stopping by, Joey. I couldn't agree with you more. I forget who said the personal is political, but we always feel differently about a "group" of people when we've met or heard their individual stories. This is one of the great benefits of books.

Happy reading.