There are times as a reviewer that I feel inadequate. That no matter how eloquently I string together words, they fail to convey all that I found within the pages of a book. Such is the case with The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta.
On a rainy, gloomy night in April 1917, young artist Lily Canning falls to her death, drowning in New York City's Hudson River. The vagrant who jumped in to try and save her tells police he doesn't think it was an accident. As Lily's family and friends try to come to terms with her death, they question why she would consider suicide at a time when her life was finally coming together. Having lived through the loss of her beloved father and a short, but horrific marriage, Lily's first art show was coming up soon. It seems incomprehensible that she would choose to end it all now. But could she have done it? And what would this sudden loss mean to those who were left behind to go on living without her?
The River, By Moonlight is one of the finest pieces of literary work I have read in years. Told from the perspectives of family, friends, and the men who loved her--and there are many of those--the complex person who was Lily Canning unfolds like a blooming rose, starting off small, until it fully opens to reveal all its hidden treasures.
This story invokes strong emotions from the reader: the sense of loss felt by those left behind, the angst felt by the men who loved Lily--feelings she did not return, except once (and that ended terribly for both Lily and the man), the anger and confusion from those who suspected what Lily might have done, the constant torment Lily always dealt with until she was finally at peace, and the uncertainty of a country on the brink of entering World War I.
In an ingenious move, the last chapter is told from Lily's perspective. Up to this point, the reader has only experienced Lily's life secondhand. Now, they get to hear Lily's story and understand the decisions she made and the mistakes she had come to live with.
What will make this story a winner with readers is the thorough development of the characters. Henrietta (Etta), Lily's heartbroken mother, Edmund, the despised husband, Louis, the cousin secretly in love with Lily, Nuala, the servant girl and friend, and many others who allow the reader to experience the full gamut of emotions as Lily's tale unfolds.
The River, By Moonlight is a powerful, gripping story. Exquisitely written, filled with diverse, well developed characters, and brimming with rich descriptions, Lily's story is one that you will never forget.
Title: The River, By Moonlight Author: Camille Marchetta Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc. ISBN: 978-1-60264-017-7 (Paperback) ISBN: 978-1-60264-018-4 (Hardcover) U.S. Price: $14.95 (Paperback) U.S. Price: $21.95 (Hardcover)
You'll find Camille's thoughts about New York and why it plays a role in almost all her books here.