A MOON IN ALL THINGS - 2018
Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)
SYNOPSIS: A MOON IN ALL THINGS
Fadó fadó , inside a tale wondrous and wise, lives fifteen-year-old MORRIGAN LANE, who was born with a disfiguring, whiskey-colored birthmark on her face and the gift of second sight, as had her great-grandmother. In this coming-of-age story set in 1820s Western Ireland, Morrigan is beset by dreams that drive her from her cottage into the night where she stands on the cliffs, longing for freedom, yearning to become a ship’s captain. English colonizers have colluded with the powerful Catholic Church to cast the ancient Irish ways and beliefs as “pagan,” and “dangerous.” Morrigan feels out of step with this world and drawn ever closer to the natural world and her own wildness. This puts her at odds with those around her. SCHOOLMASTER WINNETT routinely punishes her because she uses her beloved Irish Gaelic rather than the prescribed English. Too, he feels threatened by her unusual questions that he cannot answer.
Once, Morrigan coped by trying to hide her differentness with silence. But more and more, she feels ready to burst, especially as unexpected, and sometimes frightening things begin happening to her and around her. First, she has an encounter with a mysterious foreigner who emerges from the sea. Village women wonder if it was Manannán mac Lir, the sea god from their myths who ferries souls to The Otherworld. Her mum, BETHA, is jealous of her daughter’s gift, fearing that Morrigan’s second sight is the devil’s work. She vows to prevent her daughter from following her grandmother’s path. Then, her da, PADDY’S fellow boatmen no longer want her help at the fishing docks because her hair is red. For an Irish seaman, seeing a red-haired female before launching is unlucky. Morrigan is shocked. For her, the sea is life!
When a wolf appears and greets her in the ancient Once-and-Only Language, to her surprise, Morrigan understands him. As her fear evaporates, Morrigan comes to realize that she is being called by invisible forces – not to captain a ship, but to heal her beloved fishing village – because humans have frayed the cords of connection within the fragile World Tree; as the village goes, goes the world. Morrigan is mystified. No one is sick. Overwhelmed and with no idea how to proceed, Morrigan begins to confront a series of profound questions: Whatever could it mean to heal one’s village? Is her village where her ancestors are buried or is her village any being she encounters? In search of guidance, she consults CAITLÍN, THE CROOKED WOMAN, an herbalist who, to the ire of Master Winnett, embodies the ancient Irish ways of healing. Before long, Morrigan becomes Caitlín’s apprentice and begins an inner, transformative journey to claim her intuitive powers and fulfill her destiny.
When SIR MARTIN, the English landowner, raises the rents on every thatch-roofed cottage, the villagers are panicked. They cannot afford higher rents; if they don’t pay, they will suffer brutal evictions. Aware of her call, Morrigan stands up against the injustice, daring to speak to Sir Martin on behalf of her people. She succeeds, and even Sir Martin cannot understand how the girl convinced him to give the villagers a reprieve on their rents. Morrigan becomes a heroine to the villagers – until Sir Martin’s brutal agents, angry that their share of the rents has been delayed, exact revenge on Morrigan and the villagers. Morrigan is wracked by guilt. Is a life lived as it is destined or is a life lived choice by choice? This question haunts her.
Then, her wolf emissary disappears. Morrigan is desperate for instructions about her calling. In an ancient yew grove, she receives a mysterious message that sets her off to find a triad of healing tools important to her destiny. Morrigan vows to heed the ancients’ wishes on behalf of something larger than herself – the future of her village. As she begins to trust her inner knowing, she is aided by a growing, mystical kinship with the natural world and soon finds the tools needed for her healing work: a dagger, a bone flute, and a ceremonial vessel.
When Sir Martin’s sixteen-year-old daughter, MISTRESS MARY becomes gravely ill and the village doctor can do nothing for her, Morrigan feels called to save Mary’s life. She clashes with Sir Martin as she attempts to use the healing tools to no avail. Something is missing. As Mary nears death, Morrigan gives way to despair. But fate intervenes: our heroine learns that Betha has hidden her great-grandmother’s ancient healing parchment. In Morrigan’s hands, the parchment reveals there is more to healing than the physical body. With her newfound instruments and faith, Morrigan saves Mistress Mary’s life. Sir Martin and Betha have a change of heart about Morrigan’s gift, but Master Winnett is furious. Convinced that Morrigan has some kind of freaky intuition, he is afraid Morrigan can read the guilt Winnett feels because he did not save the village’s priest from choking, though he could have. Winnett wants to be rid of Morrigan Lane forever. He threatens to do Caitlín harm if Morrigan does not leave the village with FIONN McDONAUGH, the pub owner’s son.
Morrigan must face one final challenge. Fionn has passage for two on a boat to America. At first, Morrigan, who is deeply in love with the young man, accepts Fionn’s proposal of marriage and emigration to America. Then she rethinks her decision. She has made a sacred vow. She faces a heart-wrenching decision. Go to America with Fionn, or keep her vow to the ancients to heal her village and by extension, the world. As the novel concludes, Morrigan stands alone on the rocky cliffs of Ireland while Fionn’s ship, bound for America, her sister on board instead, disappears from view.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.00 out of 10
Plot: This book is a coming-of-age story that grapples with colonialism and the conflict between Christianity and traditional folklore in Ireland. The plot is paced well, and thematic and fantasy elements are woven into the arc nicely.
Prose: The novel is well written. The pacing is consistent, dialogue reads naturally, and descriptions feature language that lends to the book’s themes of naturalism and folkloric mysticism.
Originality: The crux of the novel is the disconnect between the natural, folkloric world and the advancement of human civilization, here largely represented by the Catholic Church. The attention to detail and the authenticity of the setting and time period help the storyline explore this in a satisfying manner. The characters and scenario are both original and captivating.
Character Development: Morrigan is a complicated character whose emotional development and growth drive the primary coming-of-age plot. There are a number of supporting characters, and their individual convictions and preoccupations support the thematic developments in the text. The supporting characters have their own emotional arcs that play well with the core plot arc.
Blurb: A lush and imaginative tale.
Date Submitted: August 31, 2018
Ellen Kleiner, former Publishing Industry Executive, CEO BlessingWay Services
“This book is brimming with life, magic, and a flow back to the forces of nature we have forsaken. Oh my, how wonderful.”