Review: The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carleton

Tara read this book late last year, and she said she was shocked by the turns the book took, which, y’all, if you are ever trying to convince me to read a book?  Shocked is a good adjective to use.  Family saga will get you nowhere.  I cannot at present think of any family sagas I have read and disliked (or any I have read and liked, actually), but I have conceived a violent prejudice against them.  In this case, Tara said both shocked and family saga, and shocked won out.  Sometimes that happens.

And now that shocked no longer looks like a word to me, I will proceed.  The Moonflower Vine opens with an idyllic family reunion over several summer evenings in Missouri.  Matthew and Callie’s three grown daughters – Jessica and Leonie, and the much-younger Mary Jo – have come home for a vacation, and at night they come together and watch the moonflowers blossom.  It is all very loving and affectionate, and Mary Jo thinks that she will remember this time forever.

Shocking flashbacks ensue.  We learn about the family’s past from the perspective of each of the family members.  The focus of each section was – more or less – the romantic life of the viewpoint character for that section, and how it affected the rest of the family.  We see how they caused each other pain, and how they helped each other.  We see Mathy, the emotional and physical center of the book, how the family spins around her and how they manage without her.  (That’s not a spoiler – it’s clear from the beginning that Mathy’s gone.)

Okay, the flashbacks aren’t all that shocking.  I mean they aren’t Forever Amber shocking, or even The Group shocking – they’re good flashbacks because they create a solid, layered, complex family dynamic.  They’re good flashbacks because they cause the story to unfold in a way that I like: starting with the end, and gradually revealing how they got there.  The Moonflower Vine is a beautifully constructed, beautifully told story.

How do you like your plot twists?  Gentle and inevitable (as here!) or punch you in the stomach (like Fingersmith)?

Other reviews:

Books and Cooks
Killin’  Time Reading
Neglected Books Page

If I missed your review, let me know!