As soon as I started reading The Girl Who Chased The Moon, it started vaguely reminding me of something I'd read before but I couldn't work out what. I googled the author Sarah Addison Allen and suddenly it all became clear. She also wrote Garden Secrets, a novel that I had read and absolutely loved a couple of years ago because it was so fresh, enchanting and totally different to anything else I'd ever read. Once I'd refreshed my memory, I had to go and look up the character names because the beginning of this second novel reminded me so much of the first book that I wasn't sure if it was the sequel, following the same group of characters. It isn't, it's a totally separate town and group of people but the atmosphere is identical.
We discover the same "magicality", a word I've coined to explain this blend of magic and reality that initially surprises people (both readers and characters in the book itself) but that they end up taking for granted. Wallpaper that changes patterns depending on your mood, people who can't go out at night, a real-life giant, cakes that reach out and call back long-lost loved ones, ghostly lights in the woods ... so many strange and unexplainable things that give the little town of Mullaby its quirkiness and character.
But into this fairytalesque world, the author injects a hefty dose of realism and heartache. There are people who self-mutilate, teenage pregnancies, suicide, long-standing family feuds ... It may be an enchanting place to live but that doesn't mean everyone is happy.
Emily Benedict, new girl in town, discovers the secrets of Mullaby and its quirky cast of eccentric locals as we do, at first with scepticism but eventually with acceptance. It can't all be explained, sometimes you just have to accept that things are just the way they are. Her voyage of discovery and self-discovery leads her to look at her mother's past, as well as that of the other inhabitants of Mullaby, where recognition, acceptance and forgiveness will ultimately lead to redemption and hope.
It's a lovely feel-good tale that will make you feel all warm and snuggly inside, amost definable as chick lit in a weird and wonderful fantastical town. My only slight gripe is that it is very similar (in atmosphere, not in plot) to Garden Secrets which was totally spell-binding because it was so different and unique. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read but didn't leave me quite as wide-eyed and bewitched by the mystical atmosphere as the first time around.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £14.99
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (5 Aug 2010)
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