Saturday, June 29, 2013

Highly Recommended Book: The Moonflower Vine

OK, I admit it -- I picked it up in the bookstore because of its title (I adore Moonflowers!). The owner was standing alongside me and said it was an excellent read 


The descriptions on the cover and back pages sold me:

"A Rediscovered Classic"

"New York Times Bestseller"

"A deeply felt American family saga...Dramatic..Constantly alive."  -- Harper's

And the publisher's words:

"On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy's fate will be the family's greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive - and ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together."

I started it three days ago and every spare moment has been spent consuming it. The book is as good as anything of its type I've read in a long time.

Author Jetta Carleton's (1913-1999) novel was published in 1962 to rave reviews; it was predicted to become a classic. The book spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list and was a selection of the Literary Guild and the Reader's Digest Condensed Book Club.

But in subsequent years the book fell into obscurity until, in 2006, the editor of included The Moonflower Vine in his compilation of "books that have been neglected, overlooked, forgotten, or stranded."

In 2009, Harper Perennial published the first new edition of The Moonflower Vine in more than twenty years.

So if you're looking for a book that will keep you turning the pages, go get this one!

It is far from a nostalgic piece of sentimental Americana. In the book's foreward Jane Smiley writes:

"It was complex and daring when it was first published, and it remains so in the twenty-first century - a delicate and loving exploration of some of the most sensitive topics of family life, presented in a straightforward style that is remarkable for its beauty and moral precision."

There are so many memorable passages - some hauntingly beautiful and others witty and realistic, such as the following:

"My sisters and I used to visit them on the farm. We came each summer -- Jessica from deep in the Ozarks, Leonie from a little town in Kansas, and I from New York, where I worked in television, then a new industry, very mysterious to my family. To me, and somewhat to my sisters, these visits were like income tax, an annual inconvenience. There were always so many other ways we could have spent the time. But, old as we were, our parents were still the government. They levied the tribute and we paid it."


When you fall in love with a book and a writer, you immediately wonder, "is there more?" With Carleton, the answer appeared to be no -- that The Moonflower Vine was her only published book.

It was known that she had been working on a second novel when she died, but it was believed to have been lost in 2003 when a tornado hit the house where they it was stored.

The unfinished manuscript had been left with a friend, however, and now discovered, published under the title Clair de Lune.

You can bet I'll be reading that one soon.

What are you reading these days"


  1. I don't recall ever hearing of either book or author. Description sounds something like a Debbie Macomber book - my sister's favorite. Don't you love finding a new author to read?

    1. Never read any of Debbie Macomber's. I started reading Clair de Lune last night on my Kindle.

  2. You briefed the book so well, that had I even a bit of extra time, I´d be interested in reading it.
    Work, work right now. I have not even be able to read the blogs, let alone comment on them in the way I´d wish.
    So - right now, no books on the bedside table.

    1. What - my profile picture is missing?

    2. Sorry, there was a question mark for a while.
      Just wondering, if " they " are testing for July 1 ?

    3. I go through times when I don't read either -- when I'm going other things, such as in the past few months. But now summer's here and I'll be reading more.

      I don't know about you, but I'm tired of all this Google Reader hype; may not matter to our blogs at all!!

  3. Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll check and see if my library has it. I like some of the old authors who aren't frequently read, Rumer Godden comes to mind.

    Right now I'm reading "Best Food Writing 2006" Edited by Holly Hughes. A collection of short pieces that may/may not have appeared in magazines. She has a "Best.." for a number of years. Easy reading - especially good for short bits of time.


    1. I've heard of, never read Rumer Godden. I'll make a note of that.

  4. Sounds like a powerful story.
    My reading habits are erratic at best, the intensity and genre preference varying. Since it's summer time, I traditionally turn to murder mysteries.

  5. Can't wait to read it! Have two started but they haven't consumed me yet.
    Don't know enough about the blog issues to even comment!


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