The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton (4 Stars)

This book was first published in the 1960’s, and is now making a comeback as a rediscovered classic. It started out slow, but drew me in.  The beginning of the book is also the end of the book. The book begins with Matthew and Callie, in their 70’s, enjoying their daughters’ annual summer homecoming to their Missouri farm. A highlight of the visit is the blooming of the moonflower vine.

We then jump back about 50 years, to the courtship, marriage and family life of Matthew, Callie and their four daughters. The narration is third person, but each chapter is uniquely one character’s perspective. The writing is superb and I’m so glad I stuck with it. Each character became more interesting (although not necessarily more likable). This is a look at the complexity of family dynamics amidst a changing culture of automobiles, aviation, city versus rural life, war, and women having aspirations beyond the home. And as much as things change, sometimes things stay the same. While written about a time beginning 100 years ago, the themes are timeless.

The last chapters are from Callie’s perspective, which brings us full circle to the beginning. She is anticipating her daughters’ arrival, and these chapters are the grand finale.  What a surprise, but even more so was the feeling you really knew Callie, understood her and felt for her.  The writing in these chapters was amazing. You feel that you are on the farm with Callie, seeing what she is seeing, feeling what she is feeling on this glorious summer day.

It’s unfortunate that Jetta Carleton only published this one book.

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