By December 5, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Rediscover a Classic

Book groups looking for an old-fashioned story that mixes elements of gentle reads with the pointed realities of rural living may enjoy a rediscovered classic, The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton.

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

As bucolic as the setting may be, it also pulls out the darker sides of all the characters in the book.

On the surface, the story is about a family who live on a farm in Western Missouri and it takes place in the first half of the twentieth century. It opens in the early 1950s. All of the family’s daughters are home for a visit and while readers may find their relationships, activities, and observations are almost too good to be true, there is something more bubbling near the surface.

As the chapters unfold, told from the viewpoint of each member of the family, the reader learns the darker side of everyone’s nature and the secrets all are struggling to keep hidden from their loved ones. The reader slowly begins to understand how hard this family works to present a cheery, untroubled front to each other.

Readers will be going back to the first section to reread and look for the cracks in this tight-knit family. Readers should also ponder why the youngest daughter, Mary Jo, is not given her own chapter, even though she narrates the opening chapter that introduces the reader to all the characters.

Another topic to address is the setting. The rural Missouri countryside is a formidable character on equal footing with the parents and children. How does it shape the lives of all the characters, for good or ill?

Critics compared this novel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for its depiction of rural family life that faces larger societal intrusions. These two books might make an interesting pairing for a book discussion.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

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