two-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Alice Sebold
user_rating: 
0

A-The Almost Moon"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." Helen Knightly, a middle-aged Philadelphia divorcee, has sacrificed her marriage and family to care for her vicious, mentally unbalanced mother, Clair. One afternoon, after the elderly Clair soils herself, Helen finally realizes her childhood fantasy: she kills her mother by suffocating her with towels. Her frenetic activities over the next day and a half-she enlists the help of her ex-husband in California, implicates a local handyman in the murder, sleeps with her best friend's much-younger son, and eludes the police-are interspersed with flashbacks revealing the lifetime of pain, loss, and mental illness that led to matricide.
Little, Brown. 304 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316677469

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"Call it Crime and Multitasking-and one couldn't ask for a more candid, updated, locally savvy Dostoyevsky. . . As in Crime and Punishment, The Almost Moon takes us into the consequences, psychological and otherwise, for the killer, though Sebold keeps the focus to the first day or so after the act." Carlin Romano

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"The Almost Moon is another home run, a story with a plot wholly different from The Lovely Bones but just as beautifully constructed, fearless and fast-paced. ... The Almost Moon is a breathless read, a dark literary thriller that delves into the psychology of mother-daughter relationships and the fallout of mental illness." Ashley Simpson Shires

Christian Science Monitor 2.5 of 5 Stars
"With The Almost Moon, she has crafted a story that no one other than Chuck Palahniuk would ever call 'heartwarming.' . . . Sebold does wring a certain amount of suspense out of whether Helen will succeed in getting away with murder, but since she hasn't managed to make a reader give a hoot about Helen or Clair, it's a bit of a Pyrrhic victory." Yvonne Zipp

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"The Almost Moon lacks the sensitivity and depth to carry off its dramatic opening or explore the complex issues it raises. ... Several sections of The Almost Moon demonstrate that Sebold can still write beautiful, haunting scenes, but there are enough jarring missteps here to make anyone wonder why she sabotages herself." Ron Charles

Miami Herald 1.5 of 5 Stars
"There's no sense of tension, no inexorable tightening of fear or regret. It's hard to get worked up about what happens to Helen, just as it's difficult to believe a woman who murders her mother could be this bland." Connie Ogle

New York Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"The resulting novel is annoying, unconvincing and deeply perplexing. Although it shares some themes with Ms. Sebold's acclaimed best seller, The Lovely Bones-both are concerned with families and the connection (or lack of connection) characters feel toward the real world-this volume demonstrates none of the psychological acuity or emotional chiaroscuro of that earlier book." Michiko Kakutani

USA Today 0.5 of 5 Stars
"Moon is so antic, so over the top that you keep turning the pages in a frenzy of disbelief. By the time Helen has had sex with her best friend's 30-year-old son, stripped down to model for an art class and plotted with her ex-husband to pin her mother's murder on a handyman, you'll be choking on your popcorn." Jocelyn McClurg

Critical Summary

Since Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones ( 4.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2002) was a runaway hit, critics inevitably compared that poignant tale of a murdered teenage girl to this long-awaited, brooding account of a woman pushed to tragic extremes. Some critics praised Sebold's evocative writing and bleak depiction of family relationships in the shadow of mental illness, but the majority of critics complained that the characters were wholly unsympathetic, their decisions and actions incomprehensible, and the plot implausible. Some of the discord may result from Moon's ugly subject matter and the natural compassion elicited by the young murder victim in The Lovely Bones (as opposed to the cold-blooded Helen). Sebold's fans may want to skip this one.