mending-the-moonReviewed by Krista Castner

Gray. If I had to pick one word to describe Susan Palwick’s Mending the Moon, it would be gray. Perhaps it’s fitting that the dust jacket is even primarily gray. Very early on we learn that sixty-four year-old Melinda Soto has been brutally raped and murdered while on a solo holiday in Mexico. Melinda was a librarian in Reno. She was also a single parent who adopted her son Jeremy from Guatemala when he was a toddler. He’s now a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) where he’s struggling to figure out what to do with his life.

Melinda’s death brings her close friends together as they try to support Jeremy. But Rosie is trying to cope with her husband Walter’s advancing Alzheimer’s, and Veronique is unhappily trying to get through yet another excruciating year of teaching English Lit at UNR when all she really wants to do is retire. Henrietta, or ‘Mother Hen’ as she’s affectionately nicknamed is the priest at the Episcopal church that Rosie, Melinda and Jeremy attended. The three women all work together to try to help Jeremy come to terms with what his mother’s death means today, and what it will mean for his future.

Seven hundred and fifty miles away in Mercer Island, Washington, Anna and William Clark get an unexpected call from their twenty-two year old son Percy. He needs to be picked up now from the airport. He’s come home early from his Mexican vacation. He was staying at the same resort as Melinda and he just wanted to get away from all the turmoil that happened after her body was discovered. Percy is unsettled. He is quiet and introverted for a few days before he drowns himself in Lake Washington. A few days later the DNA results come back and implicate him as Melinda’s rapist and killer.

Interwoven with these two storylines of grief and loss is a subplot about an adult comic book featuring Comrade Cosmos and his adversary, Emperor Entropy. Both Jeremy and Percy were avid followers of Comrade Cosmos. There are some pretty long passages from the comic which contain allegories about good vs. evil; and the ultimate power of compassion and persistence to win the day. But even those stories are rather pedantic and heavy-handed with pseudo religious rhetoric.

Improbably, the Reno contingent, at Anna’s invitation, drive up to Seattle to attend Percy’s memorial service. It is held on what would have been his twenty-third birthday. It becomes painfully clear that even Melinda’s survivors have more compassion for Anna’s reaction to Percy’s death than do her husband and his parents.

While the writing in this book is good, the story is gray. There is just no escaping the dreariness. I kept hoping that something would happen to lighten the mood. But sadly (and that’s a word that is used freely throughout the book) it ended on a poignant note that left me with a sense of futility about life’s caprices.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tor Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.