When Beth Moon dies- possibly by suicide- her family falls apart. Her husband stops going to work takes to drinking from dawn to dusk. Olivia, the younger daughter, stares at the sun until she does permanent damage to her retinas, leaving her legally blind. Jazz, the older daughter, pushes on, getting a job so she can keep the family together. The book is divided into sections named for the stages of loss; the sisters take turns telling the story.
Jazz and Olivia were brought up so differently that it’s like they were raised in different homes. Jazz was sent to school and always told to take care of her sister. Olivia has synesthesia, seeing tastes and hearing colors, was taken out of school at a young age and homeschooled. Of course Jazz holds some resentment for Olivia because of this, but she also feels compelled to carry out the script of making sure Olivia doesn’t get herself into trouble. Those aren’t the only differences in how they were raised, though; after the birth of Jazz Beth fell into a nasty case of postpartum depression, which she didn’t do with Olivia. Jazz is caretaker of her mother as well as of Olivia; Olivia is more of a playmate for Beth.
Beth spent her life working on a fairy tale that she never finished. She dreamt that someday she’d make a trip to the Cranberry Glades in West Virginia, see the fairy lights, and that would enable her to finish the book. So it seems logical to Olivia that some of her ashes should be taken there- and she’ll do it with or without Jazz to be her eyes. When their vehicle breaks down on the road, Olivia figures that she’ll just hop a freight train and get there on her own. This is where she meets Hobbs, a young man covered in tattoos who she immediately takes to, and Red, an old man who she most certainly doesn’t take to.
This is a book of secrets; everyone has a lot of them, and they feel they must keep these secrets to protect those they love. The secrets come out painfully; no one trusts anyone else. Some of the secrets they are keeping belong to other people.
This is a coming of age book; I’m honestly not sure what audience it’s aimed at but it could just as easily be enjoyed by young adults as by adults. The twists that the book takes are things I never expected and things never stop moving hectically along. I started out thinking the book was okay; by the middle I was growling at anyone who tried to interrupt my reading.
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