A Year Of Full Moons by Madelyn Arnold

cover of the book A Year Of Full MoonsA Year Of Full Moons by Madelyn Arnold
Genre: Fiction
Copyright Year:
Published: 2002
Publisher: Griffin
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 512
No. In Series:
ISBN: 312287240
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This odd, engrossing roman à clef by Madelyn Arnold, whose 1988 debut, Bird-Eyes , has been recently reprinted, begins slowly, in a Kentucky springtime in 1963, with a confusion of major and minor characters crossing the page. Jos Butler, a 15-year-old tomboy, has just set off fireworks perilously close to her face, rupturing her eardrum and giving herself second-degree burns over much of her body. One of seven children in an unlucky family–her mother suffering a prolonged, incapacitating grief over a dead baby; her father too unstable to hold a job–Jos is becoming aware of the ways that her older sister Ellie is beginning to soften herself in her bid for Southern womanhood. Jos can’t imagine not running through the streets of their small town, though, or having to wear a bra. When she catches sight of a disdainful, mannish horsewoman at the Memorial Day parade, her crush is almost immediate, and that night she dreams of witches around a fire in the woods: ‘Suddenly one saw her and they came pouring after her waving thick withes the width of a finger or more, screaming derisively after her what they’d do when they laid hold of her. She ran in panic, but it was a pleasurable panic. It was like she didn’t want to get away. ‘ Although the affair with Peg, the sadistic horsewoman, is deftly rendered, Arnold is not at her best in the description of Jos’s budding desires. What emerges far more strongly is the tainted innocence of white liberals in the South in the early ’60s, who risked either Klan violence or the appearance of complicity with the racist teachers, town officials, and policemen who were working together to enforce the color bar. Jos has already made herself conspicuous by taking chemistry–a class for boys–and by confronting the racism of her biology teacher, whose text is the Book of Genesis. What will happen if she casts a black student as the lead in a play she is directing? This is a moving and rewarding novel for those who can make it through the first 50 pages. –Regina Marler
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