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The Almost Moon
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About the Author

Alice Sebold is the bestselling author of The Lovely Bones, a novel, and Lucky, a memoir. She lives in California with her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold.

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Sebold's disappointing second novel (after much-lauded The Lovely Bones) opens with the narrator's statement that she has killed her mother. Helen Knightly, herself the mother of two daughters and an art class model old enough to be the mother of the students who sketch her nude figure, is the dutiful but resentful caretaker for her senile 88-year-old mother, Clair. One day, traumatized by the stink of Clair's voided bowels and determined to bathe her, Helen succumbs to "a life-long dream" and smothers Clair, who had sucked "the life out of [Helen] day by day, year by year." After dragging Clair's corpse into the cellar and phoning her ex-husband to confess her crime, Helen has sex with her best friend's 30-year-old "blond-god doofus" son. Jumping between past and present, Sebold reveals the family's fractured past (insane, agoraphobic mother; tormented father, dead by suicide) and creates a portrait of Clair that resembles Sebold's own mother as portrayed in her memoir, Lucky. While Helen has clearly suffered at her mother's hands, the matricide is woefully contrived, and Helen's handling of the body and her subsequent actions seem almost slapstick. Sebold can write, that's clear, but her sophomore effort is not in line with her talent. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Murder, madness, and marital woes are the knotty conundrums Sebold (The Lovely Bones) offers readers in her latest tale of psychological horror. In a moment of panic, Helen Knightly kills her dementia-ridden mother. Appalled but not apologetic, Helen spends the next 24 hours pondering the chain of events that led her to this choice. From the very first sentence, which is a masterpiece of understated horror, readers are fully immersed in the perspective of an unstable yet highly functioning mind. The pace is superb, a slow tease that alternates between calm, reflective flashbacks and tense, tight descriptions of Helen's attempts to hide her crime and avoid the police. Though secondary characters are somewhat flat, they're reassuringly sane and normal compared with Helen, which makes it easier to stomach difficult scenes. Readers who appreciate suspense will find themselves unable to put the book down, especially near the end, when the question of whether or not Helen will escape the consequences of her actions becomes almost too much to bear. A daring, devastating novel; highly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/07.]-Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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