Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: A Night on Moon HIll by Tanya Parker Mills

Title: A Night on Moon Hill
Author: Tanya Parker Mills
Source: Borrowed copy
This book would be rated: PG, although slightly more explicit than other LDS books
Enjoyment Rating: ****

Daphne Lessing, a novelist and a college professor, is comfortable with her life. She teaches creative writing. She eats cheese quesadillas. She writes. And morning and night, she swims in her pool. She doesn't yearn for friends or companions, and other than her high school boyfriend, Steve, she hasn't had any relationships that she misses in her simple life.

And then, one night, she finds the body of one of her students floating in her swimming pool. He's left her a note-- a poem. And Daphne's life is suddenly complicated-- because it turns out that the boy in her pool is the son she'd placed for adoption when she was a teenager, a choice she'd never second-guessed, a son she'd never thought much about. And in his will, this son has left Daphne as the guardian of his half-brother, ten-year-old Eric, who has Asperger's. Daphne agrees to take temporary custody of Eric, which breaks her safe little world, and her heart, wide open.

As a mom of a preteen with Asperger's, a lot of Mills's characterizations rang true to me. But more important than that, Mills does a nice job creating a story with complicated, nuanced characters. Daphne is prickly-- and while she undergoes a transformation, she's still prickly at the end. In fact, all of her characters are complicated in interesting ways. I like that she doesn't take the easy way out and have everyone live happily ever after and fall in love. Mills also places the story within the LDS framework, but off to the side, with minor characters who are LDS, which sort of releases the narrative from being bound to our doctrines. The writing is also very good. Once I got into the groove of the story, I read it quickly. I hope to see this on the list of Whitney finalists in the General category. I think it will be a strong contender.

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