if you didn't know whether your mother's death was suicide or accident?
For sheltered, unanchored Olivia and her down-to-earth sister, Jazz,
grappling with that question is complicated by their father's downward
spiral and their own very different ways of interpreting the world. Told
in the sisters' alternating voices, the novel opens with Olivia's
The night before the worst day of my life, I dreamed the sun went dark and ice cracked every mirror in the house, but I didn't take it as a warning.—The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh (Random House / Crown, 2014, p. 3)
- Setting: small-town West Virgina, and beyond
- Circumstances: two sisters coming to terms with their mother's death and a future without her take a journey to a place that may be hold some answers
- Characters: Olivia and Jazz Moon, their parents, various characters they meet on their trip
- Themes: grief, family, sisters, disabilities, being different, having dreams
- Genres: contemporary fiction; coming-of-age; magical realism
- Extras: synesthesia, growing up sheltered
Thank you so much, Therese. The sister bond is always interesting to me because I have only brothers. I've heard stories about the will-o'-the-wisp and I'm intrigued that you've incorporated the legends into your contemporary novel. Can't wait to get further along in The Moon Sisters.The Development of an Idea by Therese Walsh
The origins of The Moon Sisters was a mix of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
Something Old: I first learned about will-o'-the-wisp lights years ago via a word-of-the-day email. I was so fascinated with the idea of these drifting lights—which sometimes appear over bogs and are thought to lead those who follow to treasure or over a cliff’s edge, depending on the whim of the wisp—that I included them in the draft of a different story. Though I eventually abandoned that half-finished manuscript, the scene I’d written, involving a blind girl and wisp lights over a bog in West Virginia, stuck with me. Some of my critique partners nudged me over that scene, too, and said they hoped that I’d revisit it. While I never evolved the creepy scene they remembered, I did fall back in love with the concept of writing about a blind girl and beckoning lights over a bog.
Something New: After I finished writing my debut novel, I was on high lookout for fresh story ideas. I was a science major in college (I have an M.S. in psychology), and I remain fascinated with unique human behaviors and experiences. As soon as I learned about synesthesia, I knew I wanted to incorporate it into a new book. Synesthesia is a condition characterized by sensory areas that are connected in unique ways; so a person might taste music or see sound, for example.
Something old and something new merged when I realized that will-o'-the-wisp lights are also called "foolish fires." Right away, I imagined a girl with synesthesia staring at the sun, because the sun smelled like her mother, and losing her central vision (becoming legally blind) because of that act.
Something Borrowed: I borrowed heavily from what I know of sisterhood for this novel. I have two beloved sisters, and we are each very different from one another. The complexity of the sister bond and the chemistry we share when we come together—the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful—is reflected in The Moon Sisters.
Something Blue: This book is also about recovery following the death of a parent. My sisters and I felt a crash and burn of stability after our father died at the age of fifty-six, and we coped with his death in different ways. Death of a parent, especially when you’re relatively young—and my youngest sister was just sixteen when our father died—can cause you to question a lot of things, including the very meaning of life.
A Marriage of Ideas: How do these ideas meld? Two sisters—one practical, the other a sun-staring synesthete—travel to find a fabled will-o'-the-wisp light because finding one was their recently deceased mother’s unfulfilled wish. Along the way, they struggle to come to terms with each other and their memories of their mother, as they grapple with hope, dreams, and even the meaning of life, in their strange new world.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue became, over the course of four-plus years, The Moon Sisters. It was the hardest and is the truest thing I’ve ever written.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy The Moon Sisters, and that if you do, you’ll share it with a sister or two.
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