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The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

carleton_moonflowerMatthew and Callie Soames first moved to the small farm at the turn of the 19th century and the book chronicles the lives of their family through the eyes of Mary Jo (the youngest child), Jessica (the oldest), Leonie (2nd child), Matthew, Mathy (3rd child) and finally, Callie.

The story has 50+ chapters and each section of the novel discusses a moment in time from the perspective of the family member.  Mary Jo’s is the only section told from a first-person point-of-view.  This structure is a little confusing at first but once you ease into it, you begin to ignore the chapter numbers (which repeat) and focus on the text.

The pacing of the story is very slow.  I prefer a quicker read so this was a strike against the story (for me personally).  That said, the book takes place predominantly on the farm so the slow pace does match the mood of a lazy summer day in the country.

Without apology, this is the sort of book you’ll either love or hate.  My husband loved this book, I hated it.  In a recent discussion group (with women far out-numbering men), most women enjoyed this read so perhaps I was the minority in this instance.

One thought about the book I will offer is to pay attention to the presence of the moonflower vines throughout the book.  There are references also to night-blooming trees (such as the Hawthorne) and other plants that are symbolic within the cover

This book has also been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; the only similarities I could make are the time period (1950’s) and the rural setting and slow pace.

There is a murder that occurs in the story but it doesn’t have the central focus we find in Harper’s novel.  The other point worth noting is that both authors only had one book published, although this will soon chance as I’ve been told that Jetta Carleton’s Clair de Lune will be published March 2012 by Harper Perennial as part of their “P.S. Series”.

This is not a sequel to The Moonflower Vine, however, it is similar in that it’s a Midwestern story set in the Missouri Ozarks, although it occurs a bit earlier, at the outbreak of WWII. Check out the book at

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has two decades of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at

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