Friday, May 27, 2016

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

 Reviewed by Ambrea

DeClare, Oklahoma, in 1972 is a poor, windswept town where anything noteworthy rarely happens—until the murder of a young mother, Gaylene Harjo, and the disappearance of her son rocks the community to its foundations.  Although investigators searched for the boy, Nicky Jack was nowhere to be found and, as the years passed, his family lost hope he would ever be located.

Thirty years later, Nicky Jack mysteriously returns to DeClare.  He has a new name, a new family, a new identity, but he knows his roots lie in this small, dusty town and he knows the answers to his past are located here.  As he tries to reconnect to his mother’s community and uncover her murderer, he unearths long-buried memories and stirs up dashed hopes, desperate love, and hidden secrets that may just tear DeClare—and Nicky Jack—apart.

Shoot the Moon has an intriguing premise:  a small, American town turned upside down by a grisly murder; a boy returning home to discover the truth of his past; a mystery and a secret buried deep beneath the quiet façade of a seemingly amiable old town.  It has all the elements of a suspenseful, family drama, and I think it succeeds in weaving together all these qualities to create an interesting novel.

It’s a murder-mystery, so parts of Billie Lett’s novel are unpleasant.  Like the abusive, corrupt sheriff, for example, or the mean-spirited and manipulative radio station owner.  They both made my skin crawl (as they probably should, given their repulsive qualities and their participation in the debacle).  There are good characters, of course, like Teeve and her mother, and I even liked the caustic newspaper reporter who has a bone to pick with DeClare; however, I found it’s sometimes easy to let the bad things overrun the story.

Admittedly, I wasn’t completely invested in Shoot the Moon.  I finished the book, because I sought closure, but I wasn’t completely committed to it.  I’m not knocking Letts’ novel.  I mean, I found it thoughtful and interesting.  It’s a comprehensive examination of human nature, a story of justice and redemption that sometimes takes a circuitous route, a family drama that, ultimately, finds a happy resolution.  It’s a decent novel, but I can truthfully say it isn’t a book I will pursue twice.

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