Moonlight on the Nantahala
by Michael Rivers
ISBN-13: 978-1466345980, softcover $11.95
This is another book that was hiding in my TBR pile but was brought to light by the Kindle-Ling Read-a-Thon from Read 2 Review. If it hadn’t been for them I don’t know when I would have found the time to read this gem hiding on my Kindle.
Michael Rivers does an extraordinary job with his modern fiction Moonlight on the Nantahala. It is evocative and it captures so thoroughly the spirit of this part of the Appalachians that I found it easy to picture the setting the around me. I may have an advantage some readers don’t have; I am from outside of Asheville and so the areas Rivers speaks of are in my proverbial expanded back yard. In fact, this is part of what drew me to the book, but it was the storyline that made me stay.
Edward is elderly man, still very independent and living on his own with the help of a live-in housekeeper. He lives in a bungalow in town, but walks every day to the house he once shared with his wife Celia on the banks of the Nantahala. One day there is a young woman along the banks. For a time, three years in fact, she and Edward share the space along the bank, each in their own little area, until one day she finds out the property belongs to Edward, and belatedly asks his permission to be on his land.
Over time Lena, Edward and Edward’s housekeeper, and friend, Betty Curtis all begin a wonderful friendship, which includes in a strange fourth, Celia, Edward’s long departed wife who he mourns every day and who occupies a place of honor in his daily conversation. The love Edward felt, and still feels for his beloved wife comes across clearly on the page as does his respect and affection for his housekeeper Betty. Also, the relationship between Edward and Lena grows and he sees her like the daughter he and Celia never had.
Lena is married to a philandering no-good man who could care less about her. He is more interested in the power she brings him through her family and the way she looks on his arm. To him it is all about control, control of Lena, control of the family business and unquestioning loyalty, even in the face of dire circumstances from those around him. Needless to say, his actions hurt Lena and that hurts Edward who has a desire to shelter and protect her from the cruelty of the world, especially when that cruelty comes in the form of her husband.
I loved everything about this story. The characters are interesting and are typical of small towns. They may seem stereotypical to some, but most of the people, especially of the older generation and the generation behind them all know each other, and who is sick, who needs help, and how to reach out to their neighbors in love and friendship. It is a dying tradition, but it is still alive here and there in small communities throughout the area, and it made me want to go searching for the real town Rivers based his fictional town on, even though I live in a relatively small town myself.
Edward is not what most of us picture when thinking of an elderly person, walking four miles a day, round trip to go to his old house and sit on the bank of the Nantahala River. He longs for a glimpse of Celia, whose ghost others have seen, but it is not to be for Edward. Instead of a view of his deceased wife’s ghost, he finds a warm friendship that adds to the lives of all who are part of it. I highly recommend this work of modern literature. It is well worth the time it takes to read it and it is not overly long. It can be read in three or four short sittings, or two long ones. Trust me, once you start putting it down will be one of the harder things you will have to do.