The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
I chose to read this book after seeing the KC Star review last fall. Jane Smiley includes it in her “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel”. The setting in rural Missouri had appeal since I grew up in rural Missouri and the time setting would make the four daughters in the story living at the same time as my mother’s generation, including the author. I thought it would give me insight into her life experience and was just interested in how their lives would be portrayed.
Ms. Carleton’s novel opens in the early 1950s with a chapter that presents life as the 3 remaining daughters are home for their annual 2 weeks summer visit on the farm with their parents. The following chapters develop the story of the family from the early marriage of the girls’ parents and through their growing up years. Each chapter focuses on one of the characters – Mother Callie, Father Matthew, and 3 of the girls – Jessica, Mathy, Leonie. There are events alluded to in the first chapter which become clear in the following chapters, and cause one to want to re-read the first chapter after the book is completed.
The found the book very satisfying. The writing is fluid, pulls the reader along, never dull, beautiful descriptions of the flora and fauna of the farm, perceptive insight into the psychology of each family member. Each one has their own failing with which they struggle and come to accept. Anyone with an interest in family relationships or Missouri farm life during the first half of the twentieth century would probably enjoy this book.