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The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

After reading and loving both of Sarah Addison Allen's first two books I just went ahead and popped her on over to my auto-buy list and sat back to wait for The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I was lucky enough to discover Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen only a few months ago and so it hasn't been that long a wait. But Garden Spells was perfectly delightful and The Sugar Queen was quite literally an example of the perfect book at the perfect time. I can't wait to re-read it again. So I found myself just about as anxious to find out what delights Ms. Allen had in store for us next as I would have been had I been forced to wait a year or more as is so often the case when I discover a debut author. I suppose that's just the way of things with the good ones. And, given how much I enjoy these reads, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Emily Benedict is seventeen and motherless the day she moves in with her Grandpa Vance in the out of the way town of Mullaby, North Carolina. Having never been to the town where her mother grew up, Emily hopes to get to know her unusually tall grandfather and find out more about her extremely private mom. Her first night there, Emily meets her next door neighbor Julia Winterson, when she knocks on her door bearing a welcome cake and a warm smile to go with it. Julia is a native of Mullaby who hasn't been home in a long time and is now living a determinedly temporary existence there just long enough to sell her dead father's diner for a tidy profit and get the hell out of Dodge. She never loved it there and the memories are bad enough to have her faithfully marking off the days on her calendar. Chief among those memories is Sawyer Alexander. The golden boy of Mullaby. The soccer playing, scholarship getting, beautiful boy who seemed to understand and even like her for the briefest of moments in high school and then forgot all about her. Unfortunately, try as she might (and for various reasons), Julia was never able to quite forget about him. Now he haunts her bakery and upstairs apartment trying to reforge that old connection just as she evades his attempts in a desperate bid to leave the past where it belongs. But as Julia befriends Emily, they both discover truths that make their lives difficult in so many messy ways.

As with her two previous novels, The Girl Who Chased the Moon features a sleepy Southern town, a couple of young women in need of healing and a whole lapful of magic, loss, and longing. The narrative shifts back and forth between Emily and Julia's experiences and I have to say I wish it had spent more time with Julia. I've realized that with Allen's novels I tend to identify more with one of the two protagonists and in the past they have both been the characters with the most page time as well. But in this case I just didn't connect very well with Emily and her adventures with the infamous Coffey family, so her sections were a bit harder to get through. Not that the lovely writing is ever anything like a chore, but I kept speeding my way through those portions to get back to Julia and Sawyer and their wonderfully aching history. Because it was simply a delight to read and I found myself fingers crossed, full of hope for them. A favorite passage:
As Julia took two towels out of her bag and spread them out on the sand, Emily shaded her eyes from the glare of sun and looked around. "Were you meeting Sawyer here?"

"No. Why?" Julia asked as she shimmied out of her white shorts, revealing the bottom half of her red bikini. She left her gauzy long-sleeved shirt on over her red bikini top, though.

"Because he's coming this way."

Julia immediately turned to see him walking down the beach toward them. Sawyer stood out too much to blend in anywhere, but the closest he came was here, with the sun and the sand. He was golden. A sun king.

"He's nice," Emily said wistfully. "The moment I saw him, I knew he'd have an accent like that. I don't know why."

"Some men you know are Southern before they ever say a word," Julia said as she and Emily watched Sawyer's progress, helpless, almost as if they couldn't look away. "They remind you of something good--picnics or carrying sparklers around at night. Southern men will hold doors open for you, they'll hold you after you yell at them, and they'll hold on to their pride no matter what. Be careful what they tell you, though. They have a way of making you believe anything, because they say it that way."

"What way?" Emily asked as she turned to her, intrigued.

"I hope you never find out," she said.

"You've been spoken to that way?"

"Yes," she said softly, just as Sawyer stopped at their towels.
And that's why I love Sarah Addison Allen books. Because, like Sawyer's smile and Julia's cakes, they make me feel wistful and warm, sated and full of good things. This book was just as well written as her books always are, but I think it suffered a bit from uneven pacing and the unfortunate placement of the more compelling storyline in the background. That said, I was captivated with Julia's story. She was an incredibly sympathetic character and I wanted to sit on the banks of Piney Woods Lake with her, eating apple stack cake, talking about Southern men, and worrying about nothing at all.


Linkage
Dear Author Review
Peeking Between the Pages Review
S. Krishna's Books Review
See Michelle Read Review

Comments

  1. That quote? *dies*

    Julia and Sawyer's interactions were by far the high points of this book. I wish we could have gotten more from the two of them! - and the word 'longing' is the prefect description for SAA's books!

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  2. I've never read Sarah Addison Allen, but I've read so many glowing reviews of her books in the past few weeks. I'm glad you enjoy her, and I'm looking forward to reading her novels, even though I'm not a huge fan of Southern novels.

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  3. I have to check this one out!

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  4. I've only read Garden Spells, but I knew from that book on I would love her work, which is why I already have The Sugar Queen and so desperately want The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I have yet to read The Sugar Queen though, only because I can't find it. It's packed away in one of my 50 boxes of books, and I can't seem to find it. It's taking me some time to make a spreadsheet for all of them, but hopefully I'll come across it soon, because I really want to read it, lol.

    Thanks for the great review!

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  5. Michelle, I know. Knew that was the money one when I read it. And, yeah, I just didn't get enough of those two. They could have handled a lot more development, IMO.

    nomadreader, interestingly, neither am I really. But these are just something special. Hope you enjoy.

    bookaholic, do! Or either of her other ones. They're each lovely.

    Falling, that's hilarious. I really hope you find it. THE SUGAR QUEEN is my fave.

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  6. Great review, Angie. I'm anxious to read this one and I noted that my library has it already too. I still have The Sugar Queen on my nightstand from my last library visit, so I'm making myself read that one first. I do love the author's style, though, so I'm fairly confident I'm going to enjoy both books.

    Approximately how old are the characters? It sounds like they're teens?

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  7. I had to cover my eyes and scroll down. I can't read the review because I haven't read the book yet and I love and adore Allen's books. Her writing is so beautiful and she always leaves you with a good book hangover.

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  8. oh dangit, i saw this on my library's new releases shelf today and almost picked it out on cover alone, but ive been burned too many times by taking books i know nothing about off the new release shelf that aren't "safe romance novels." if only i wasn't behind in my blog reading *shaking fist at my busy work schedule*

    oh well, maybe i could just make a second trip to the library today ;)

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  9. oh im a terrible bad bad commenter for doubling up like this, sorry! BUT i forgot to recommend Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews as one of the most awesomest southern fiction books in case you haven't already read it!

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  10. Christine, Emily is a teen. 17 years old. Julia is in her early 30s. Watching her befriend Emily is very sweet.

    Jane, oh, perfectly put. "A good book hangover." I love it. :)

    Lusty Reader, ha! That's hysterical. Hey, I've done the two trips to the library in one day before for a very similar reason. And thanks for the Andrews rec! I haven't read any of hers before.

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  11. Garden Spells is a wonderful book! I really need to read her other ones. So glad to hear you loved this, too.

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