Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Where's Booker? Moon Gazing

While the world is embroiled in World War I, Ella Wallace fights her own personal battle to keep the mystical Florida land that has been in her family for generations from the hands of an unscrupulous banker.

When a mysterious man arrives at Ella’s door in an unconventional way, he convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure, and a tenuous trust begins. But as the fight for Ella’s land intensifies, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear. Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family.

Edward says:
"Set in the town of Dead Lakes, Florida during World War I, Ella Wallace and her three boys are abandoned by her opium addicted husband.   They receive a huge crate which they assume to be a grandfather clock from the Blue Moon Clock Company.  However, when they open it, it turns out to be her husband's cousin, Lanier Stillis.  That's right, a living, breathing grown man.  Thus opens Michael Morris' Man in the Blue Moon.  

The town has fallen on hard times and Clive Gillespie forecloses on property after property, eyeing Ella Wallace's next.  He sees a better future for Dead Lakes as there is a natural spring on her property which he won from her gambling husband, then lost again.  He hopes to capitalize on with the evangelist, Brother Mabry, by building a retreat to this Eden which hopeful believers in need of healing will make.  Meanwhile, the local minister, Reverend Simpson,  is trying to help the community remain steadfast to purer ideals.

To try to keep her land, Ella, her three sons, Samuel, Keaton, and  Macon, her Indian housemate, Narissa, and Lanier cut lumber and do everything they can to get enough money to pay off her loan.  She keeps her husband's general store running as well, the one she gave up her own great expectations and education for when she married Harlan. 

Throughout the book, it is revealed that Lanier has a complicated history, (obviously if he was shipped away to a relative in the dead of night), but also has a special gift which impacts the small, tightknit community. 

Readers who enjoy Kent Haruf's portrayals of the West will enjoy this equally poignant exploration of Florida and the South.  This book will also remind people of Leif Enger's powerful novel from a number of years ago, Peace Like a River (my favorite staff recommend and book signing of 2001.)

I met Michael Morris at the 4th Annual University of Central Florida Book Festival  where I was moderating a panel on popular fiction.  While his book was not a part of my panel, he came highly recommended by one of the authors on my panel, Kimberly Brock, who wrote The River Witch and is a blogger for  I enjoyed visiting with him about being a fifth-generation Floridian (harder to find than you might think as so many folks are transplants like me) and learning about the inspiration for his book."

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