Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Rating: 5/5 stars
When The Moon Was Ours is a mesmerising magical realism that reminds us fairy tales are and magic belong to everyone, regardless of your race, gender, or sexuality. Written in exquisite prose and narrated in rhythmic cadence, here is an audio book I would recommend to anyone who’s ever felt different and unheard. MOON is imbued with love, hope, and dream. It’s the perfect respite from a world filled with intolerance and fear. Given the devastating result of the US elections, we need books and voices like MOON in our lives, now more than ever.
MOON begins with a girl who lost the moon, and a boy who fights every day to bring its light back into her life. The story of Miel and Sam is one well known to their town, turned mythic and strange with numerous retellings. However, the narration takes us beyond the fairy tale of a girl made from water and a boy named Moon. It shows us all the players in the tale in all of their messy, complicated glory. Through the journey these characters undergo, MOON brings in questions that challenges perception of culture, gender identity, and family.
They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and boy woven into the folklore of this place.
While magical realism is one of my favourite genres, I often find it hard to connect to the characters in these books because they seem stranger than life. This was not the case with MOON. I could identify and empathise with Miel in spite of her numerous secrets, and despite of the roses that perpetually sprout from a wound on her wrist. She lives life on the margins, with the town never quite forgetting her mysterious origin or her roses. I loved seeing her relationship with Aracely shifted and changed, as it constantly redefined the meaning of family. Miel is insecure and often fearful, but she also has a strong core of compassion that guides her every decision – making her a remarkable and memorable heroine.
I love Miel, but it was Sam who totally stole the show for me. Sam is a transgender boy of Pakistani heritage, chapters of his narration contained the beauty of his culture and his paintings – but it also carried his inner conflict and confusion. Ever since he was little, Sam and his mother has used the practice of bacha posh as an excuse for Sam’s identity. MOON explores and challenges that excuse, taking us up close and personal to Sam’s acceptance of his identity. This is a topic close to the Anna-Marie McLemore’s heart, and you can feel her love in every beautifully written sentence. I have to thank her for sharing this deeply personal story with us.
The closer she got to him, the more she felt it in her roses, like a moon pulling on a sea.
MOON is a true sensory experience, with words conjuring up images of moonlit night skies and foiled stars on summer skin. It invades the senses with the scent of spices from Aracely’s kitchen, with the sound of deep rushing water. The writing in MOON is consistently beautiful, but it shined brightest when the focus was on the relationship between Sam and Miel. Where shared glances and touches are seared into the reader’s mind with vivid prose, and feelings are explored in languid, earnest words. Their love was at once slow burning tension and ignited passion, and I thought the book portrayed their relationship beautifully.
The plot in MOON is secondary to its exploration of the character and their development. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the Bonner sisters and their motives. These girls could have easily turned into caricature villains under a less subtle hand, but MOON manages to grant most of them their own characteristics and inner turmoil. The book was quite slow paced, but I think it was fitting given the embellished, lush writing style.
The audiobook used dual narrators, a male and a female voice, for MOON. I loved both narrators – I felt they captured Miel’s passion and Sam’s calm perfectly. The book’s ornate storytelling also translated very well into an audio experience, it was like hearing someone tell me a deeply personal fairy tale of their life. While I would love to get my hands on a hard copy of the book to tab all my favourite passages soon – I would also highly recommend the audio book.
Finally, I would like to leave you with the dedication page lifted directly from the book, seeing it was what initially convinced me to purchase the novel – and I hope you will feel the same:
To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names,
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.
What a pitch perfect and beautiful dedication, and I wish the very same to all you beautiful people out there. You deserve to be heard, you deserve magic, you deserve a happy ending – don’t you let the world tell you otherwise.
I will be sharing some wallpapers inspired by this beautiful book later on in the week! For now, please let me know if you’ve read this book or are planning to read it – also drop me some recommendations of diverse fantasy and magical realism while you’re at it? ❤