Jun 7 2013 11:00am

Superheroes and Life Going On: Susan Palwick’s Mending the Moon

Mending the Moon Susan PalwickSusan Palwick’s Mending the Moon is a very hard book to describe. It’s about life and death—but isn’t everything, when you come down to it? I’ve raved about Palwick before, her amazing SF novel Shelter, her fascinating fantasy The Necessary Beggar, and her disturbing collection The Fate of Mice. Mending the Moon is like and unlike these. It’s like them in being terrifically well-written, but it’s not like them in that it is, I suppose, a mainstream novel. It’s about people in the real world. It doesn’t have fantastical elements, except in the superhero comic book that many of the characters read, “Comrade Cosmos.” It’s really wonderful and I recommend it highly, but I find it remarkably hard to describe.

I’ve read this book twice now, and I still don’t know how to talk about it properly. It’s rare for this to happen to me. I don’t want to go anywhere near spoilers. The easiest thing to do would be to talk about the characters—it has really terrific characters. But I don’t want to do that, because part of the joy of the book is discovering them, the nice ones and the prickly ones and the troubled ones.

Let’s see. It’s set in present day Reno and Seattle, among a group of people connected by the murder of Melinda Soto. That makes it sound like a mystery, but it really isn’t! Anything but. It’s a brilliantly written piece of fiction about people who feel real, people who cope with awful things happening in different ways, people you care about—and that includes the characters in the comic. It’s not so much about death as it is about grief and healing. I really enjoyed this book, but I also cried a lot reading it. It was a harrowing experience. I stayed up until 3am because I couldn’t put it down.

On the cover I compared it to Gail Godwin and Madeleine L’Engle, and I think expanding on that could be useful. Palwick’s a Christian, as are both of them, and they all have a troubled relationship with churches and God and what Christianity means in the world. They’re not coming to it in a preachy way or a way that seems irritatingly to have all the answers. The L’Engle I was particularly thinking of is A Severed Wasp, which like this is a mainstream book by somebody who’s quite familiar with things on the genre side of the line. If you like L’Engle and Godwin you’ll probably like it. And if you’ve read other Palwick you’ll definitely like it. It’s a book about difficult moral questions, and one that doesn’t have easy answers.

Probably the best thing you can do is read the excerpt and see what you think.


Mending the Moon is available now from Tor books.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

1. LaurenJ
I hadn't preordered this because it was due to arrive when I was out of town, and then it somehow slipped my mind: I was so glad to see this review appear, because then I could remember, and instantly buy it. Palwick's brilliant, and I always like books of difficult moral questions and no clear-cut answers. I'll have to read it immediately.
2. Neile
I also didn't know quite what to say about this novel, despite loving it and being deeply affected by it. My Goodreads review reads: "Human. Humane. Smart. Affecting. Painful. Hopeful. Moving. I can think of a string of adjectives better than I can describe my thoughts after closing this novel. Like Palwick's previous novels, it made me feel and think, and I feel like a wiser person for having read it. A rare and wonderful thing."
Jo Walton
3. bluejo
Neile: That's a great string of adjectives and almost more coherent than I was! Great book. So hard to explain why.
4. dmg
A review of one book and a mention of three others, all 4 by Susan Palwick, Jo, but nary a pip of Flying in Place. I begin to think you do not like that novel at all! :-)
Jo Walton
5. bluejo
DMG: Reading it the first time was so traumatic I've never been able to re-read it. That's not quite the same as not liking it...
Cathy Mullican
6. nolly
Looking forward to reading this. After I finish Hugo reading. Must finish Hugo reading first. Must.
7. lampwick
One of the themes of Mending the Moon, it seems to me, is how people get consolation and understanding from fantasy. Which is also one of the themes of, among others, Among Others.
8. HelenS
I'm just reading this, and amazed at how much mental furniture Susan Palwick and I apparently have in common.
9. LaurenJ
Just finished this. What a lovely portrayal of the complexities of grief and forgiveness, from all sides. And I loved how fully developed the CC fandom was, with all its shades of inclusiveness, prickliness, debate, and intense engagement. But I think my favorite part was how Palwick steadfastly refuse to take sides most of the time: certain characters get consolation from religion, but others don't, while seeming to mend and heal just the same; scholarly interest/bookish intelligence is valuable, but so is the ability to cook, and if you can knit lace, that's probably useful too; and "quitting" and "sticking with it" both have equal merit sometimes, depending on the circumstances. The grand effect makes the novel as a whole as warm and complex as the characters and discussions within it.
10. ofostlic
lovely book, and it also stands up surprisingly well to being read with half a brain on an intercontinental flight.

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