I put Jetta Carleton's The Moonflower Vine on my TBR list because it was listed on The Neglected Books Page and sounded like something I would love. My book club thought it sounded so good that it made the list of 2013 books to read. The good news is: I loved it. The bad news: Jetta Carleton only wrote one other novel, Clair de Lune, which I quickly added to my TBR list.
The Moonflower Vine opens from the point of view of Mary Jo, the youngest of four daughters, as the family reunites for its annual two week vacation on the old homestead. The sisters are grown and have their own lives 11 months of the year, but for this short time, the ties of family ground them, bind them, and comfort them. The novel then backtracks to tell each family member's story in his or her own voice.
Matthew Soames is the father, a school teacher and farmer who falls in love too easily. His wife Callie is illiterate and content to be so, which frustrates Matthew. Their four daughters just don't turn out the way they imagined they would, and much of the book is about how they cope with the ups and downs of growing children who inevitably go away, whether physically or emotionally or both.
Each section tells a portion of a family member's life, a slice of something life-changing for him or her, and offers a secret that each member keeps. The stories were thoroughly engrossing and beautifully told. I wanted to savor this book, to make it last for evening after evening. Carleton is a lyrical, poetic writer who beautifully captures the smells, tastes, textures, and emotions of being a parent, a daughter, a teenager, a woman. She reminds me in many ways of Willa Cather, although this novel is less melancholy and wistful than Cather's novels.
I am definitely going to check out more of the lesser known classics on the Neglected Books Page. Who knows what other treasures await?