MARIA IN THE MOON by Louise Beech
Orenda Books; 9/30/17 (UK)
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: poignant, heartbreaking storytelling
Some books seem to defy categorization and expectation entirely—Louise Beech’s MARIA IN THE MOON was that kind of read for me. Releasing from Orenda Books on September 30th, this enchanting and brooding story managed to captivate me, unsettle me, and keep me fully immersed from the first page to the last. I’m delighted to participate in the blog tour for this stunning novel today!
Whatever your expectation for this story might be, MARIA IN THE MOON is likely to surprise you; this book is neither crime fiction nor women's fiction, it’s neither terribly dark nor is it wholly uplifting. What it is is honest: Beech’s writing feels raw, as though the reader is privy to the author’s innermost self, laid bare on the page. MARIA IN THE MOON is a beautifully-constructed and wholly transporting novel, one that draws readers into a young woman’s search for her own memories—a search which reveals truths she has long since hidden from herself.
Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.
With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges... and changes everything.
Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide...
When it comes to writing book reviews, I usually know exactly what I want to say about each book well before I sit down to write my review. Like so much about MARIA IN THE MOON, my experience writing this review has been unusual. The magic of this story for me was in Beech's ability to sweep me along into her world—I knew so little about this book going into it, and somehow, that made this story even better. While I did predict the final "reveal" of this story, MARIA IN THE MOON really isn't focused on this reveal. Of course, piecing together the puzzle of the main character's lost memories is central to the story, but where this book really shines is in its ability to draw you into an ordinary life as the author unravels this life's secrets with delicacy and heart. As always, expectations are crucial when going into this book. This is not your standard crime fiction reading material—this will not suit readers looking for a very dark or shocking psychological thriller. That's no fault of the book, though—it's simply a stylistic choice readers should be aware of. There is much to love about MARIA IN THE MOON, and readers looking for a poignant and heartbreaking character study will love this novel.
Beech's writing will transport you completely; in this case, the less you know about the details of this book, the better. What you do need to know is that MARIA IN THE MOON is a truly unique reading experience. It's not technically a crime novel, but I also would never categorize this as women's fiction, either—it seems to fall somewhere in between, bridging that gap with a story that is built on a premise of underlying tension, and developed with keen insight into a young woman's journey of self-(re)discovery.
What better way to pay tribute to this unusual read than to structure my review a bit differently? In honor of the beautiful unconventionality of MARIA IN THE MOON, I’m offering up a bit of a different overview of this book today! Below you can find the top three elements of MARIA IN THE MOON that resonated with me as a reader.
- Emotional Intelligence. Above all, MARIA IN THE MOON is insightful. This isn’t your typical suspense novel; rather than focusing on the buildup to a crime, this story draws readers into the raw, unfiltered personal life of a young woman whose past has been marked by an unnamed trauma. Beech writes with a vulnerability that I absolutely loved. Reading MARIA IN THE MOON is a very personal experience—readers will find themselves entranced by the poignant and heartfelt story Beech has woven.
- Lost Memories. Memory loss seems to be a common theme in psychological suspense novels at the moment, but I can promise you haven’t read one that handles it quite like MARIA IN THE MOON. Main character Catherine is missing a year’s worth of memories, and her winding journey towards the truth of that missing year provides readers with a compelling and immersive story to follow. It’s not a traditional “follow the clues to solve it” mystery, but this intrigue creates a slow but steady driving force behind the plot.
- Timely and Unsettling. I could never have predicted this when I accepted a review copy of this book, but MARIA IN THE MOON has proven to be uncannily (and very tragically) timely. Given the recent and devastating flooding in both Texas and Florida, there is something both alarming and insightful about reading this book at this exact time. Beech portrays the human fallout of a natural disaster with sensitivity and insight; readers are given thoughtful and moving examples of the many ways people’s lives are changed and shaped by a flood—and the personal crises that can arise as a result of a natural disaster.
MARIA IN THE MOON is a moving, poignant reading experience, one which truly defies categorization. While this book is not your typical crime novel, and as such might not appeal to readers looking for a gripping, twisty crime fiction read, it will appeal to crime readers looking for a measured yet in-depth portrayal of a woman in personal crisis, embarking on a quest to unravel the secrets from her childhood that she has hidden even from herself.
About the Author:
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers' Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.
Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull - the UK's 2017 City of Culture - and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums' Army on Lizzie and Carl's BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda (30 Sept. 2017)
Follow the blog tour for MARIA IN THE MOON!