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2.8 out of 5 stars
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2.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 May 2009
An opening line that refers to killing one's mother does not presage a light-hearted feel good story, so if you're not interested in the why and wherefore of human behaviour this book is not for you. Even then, I defy anyone to actually enjoy reading it - interesting it may be, but enjoyable it is not.

The two chapters that follow the initial revelation and a short lead-in to the dastardly deed seem particularly morbid and depressing. The novel then becomes a series of flashbacks which go some way towards providing an explanation. Brought up in what sounds like a depressingly run down small American town amid an atmosphere of mental instability, deprived of natural affection, and subsequently feeling responsible for her mother, it is not surprising that Helen's own marriage failed and her relationship with her children was less than satisfactory. The problem is that I can't imagine anyone actually liking Helen, the main protagonist, and she doesn't become any more likeable as the story proceeds. Because I never warmed to her I had difficulty feeling sympathy for her, even though I could see how it was her past that shaped her present actions, rather than any innate evil in her character.

The book is generally well written although it occasionally loses pace. It's a thoughtful exploration of the effects of mental illness on those who have to cope with sufferers. And the ending is sufficiently ambiguous to leave a question mark over what might happen next. One of three obvious possibilities seems to be ruled out in the last couple of pages, which still leaves two plausible outcomes - to say more would spoil the ending for anyone still tempted, despite the reviews, to read the book. But....

While I like novels that explore the psychology of people's actions and reactions, there are others that tackle the subject more engagingly - The Other Side of You, by Salley Vickers, for example. The Almost Moon is certainly not a book I'll ever want to read again, or even to keep. That isn't just because it's a dark story - Helen Dunmore's A Spell of Winter is dark too, but I've read that three times, as much for the poetry of the writing as for the story itself. Alice Sebold's second novel just lacks sensitivity, which is a pity after the excellent reviews for The Lovely Bones. She's a talented writer so hopefully I'll be able to give more stars for her next effort.

If you haven't already read The Almost Moon I'm inclined to say, don't bother. There are plenty of more enjoyable though still thought provoking novels on the market.
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on 7 April 2008
I bought this book after absolutely loving 'The Lovely Bones'. The opening page, which I read in the bookshop, had me gripped and I had high hopes for it: I couldn't wait to start it. Sadly, I have to say it is one of the most awful books I've ever encountered. It was difficult to read, not because of any flamboyant language, but because it was so 'lumpy', with no natural flow. I found it impossible to relate to any of the characters or the circumstances they found themselves in. I detest giving up on a book but had to really force myself to finish this. It was a chore, a nasty one at that, from page 2 until the end. For me, this book is more like a first-time attempt from a particularly inept author. I do wonder what Ms Sebold was trying to say with this book, what feelings she was experiencing to produce a novel such as this. Perhaps with this insight, I may have understood the story and its purpose a bit more. As it is, I just feel let down.
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on 15 January 2009
I borrowed this from the library, thankfully, and was glad to see i wasn't the only person that was dissapointed with this book! Having read and enjoyed the lovely bones, i thought i too would enjoy this.

It wasn't the subject matter i had a problem with, it was indeed a thought provoking insight into the effects of mental illness and the impacts it has on relationships, but that was about it. I thought with such a hook at the start it would be an intense and thrilling read, unfortunatly it was too uneventfull, the jumping back and forward seemed irrelavent at times and having forced myself through the book expecting something to finally happen at the end...nothing did.

It has to be understood that Sebolds writing is threaded with complex issues, and is not intended to be a light-hearted read, i maybe would have enjoyed it more if there had been more to keep it moving.

I don't think it deserves the amount of low ratings it's got, but doesn't deserve a high rating either. Don't read it if you're bored easily, this is a book for people who like to analyse the deeper meanings of thier books and really think about the weaving of complex issues.
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on 16 May 2009
I don't think this book deserves some of the poor reviews it has received here. Yes, its true this book isn't packed throughout with action and suspense - but why buy an Alice Sebold book if that is what you are after?
As with her other books, the first chapter hits you with a shocking event; Helen kills her elderly mother who is suffering with dementia. The story then takes you through the next 24 hours of Helens life, through which Sebold explores everything that surrounds and precedes this action.
The beauty of this book is in the way Sebold captures the intricacy of human emotion and relationships. I felt so involved in Helens life that i didn't want this book to end! Sebold is a powerful writer, whose words and stories remain with you for a long time after reading them.
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on 17 January 2010
Let me begin by saying how much I adored the Lovely Bones. It's a book I reread every year for the sheer depth of emotion thats conveyed in it's pages, despite the horrific subject matter. Lucky was a novel I read twice - I found it so disturbing that I haven't been able to read it again. I was expecting something dark from Alice Sebold, but to give her her dues, there's usually some form of upliftment or empowerment for the protaganists. Almost Moon starts dark and gets darker.

Women tend to have complicated relationships with their mothers. It's part of the cosmic order. So for me, and my female friends that read this book, it was pretty hard going. Matricide in all its glory is the subject of this particular novel, and as always, Alice confronts you head on with the murder and its consequences.

Helen Knightly spent her life controlling and being controlled and her life unravels when she finally snaps and murders her mother. Given the shocking subject matter, it seems strange that the most disturbing part of the novel for me is the description of her mother's head banging on the stairs as she drags her to the cellar.

The rest of the novel moves back and forward covering Helen's life and choices and showing us just how she came to be where she is today. She's a picture of normality, until something inside her snaps and all the resentment towards her mother comes hurtling out. Helen then makes a series of choices that seems almost bizarre, until you realise that she's acting on every desire she ever suppressed. The pressing sense of inevitability stays with you as you read - I know some readers claiim she is never caught, but for me, she knows she is going to be caught the second she realises her mother dies, and the rest of the novel is her reliving her life before capture.

This is a strange novel to read, not as disturbing as The Lovely Bones, or as horrific as Lucky, but makes for very uncomfortable reading for any woman who has ever resented her mother.
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on 4 May 2014
This was the strangest book I have ever read. Out of 10 members of our book club, only 2 read it to the end. One of those was me - I was convinced it would get better! Sadly not, because there was no ending! In fact I thought my Kindle was at fault and asked to see another member's hard copy to make sure - and it was exactly the same - practically a sudden ending, almost in the middle of a sentence. A total waste of time.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 April 2014
I borrowed "The Almost Moon" from the library and thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and was surprised to see so many people who were left disappointed with this book! Having read and not really liked "The Lovely Bones", I thought this book was such a refreshing, thought-provoking, dramatic and moving read! I don't think this book "lives up" to Sebold's bestseller, I think it is better.

The entire book centres about Helen (main heroine in her 50s) killing her mother, and the next 24 hours oh Helen's life, her children, her ex-husband, her best friend, her work, and her memories.

For me, "The Almost Moon" was addictive and a true page turner. It grabbed me from the very first pages, especially because it concerned the complicated issues between mothers and daughters. The character made perfect sense, she was real and she was in the middle of something BIG. I simply couldn't put this book down so I read it in a couple of days. Alice Sebold has a talent for poetic tone and pensive metaphor. And it is after reading "The Almost Moon", I am looking forward to her next books.

You know what, I am almost thinking of giving it 5 stars (and the only reason I don't is the fact that it is not one of the best books I read, but it is GOOD!). With such a disagreement in reader's opinions about the book, I guess it's not for recommending just to anybody.

P.S. Recently, I read a book on the similar topic, Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband, which was, in my opinion, much simpler "study" on a murder in a family and aftermath (I did not really like it). If you would like to read more on the topic, perhaps you would like to check it out.
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on 31 March 2015
As well written as the authors name suggests. A meandering retrospective 24 hrs following the death of her mother. The awfulness of a family gripped by the impact of the mother's agoraphobia and the fathers weakness. The disintegration of the protagonist and the lack of hope are beautifully, painfully described.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 1 December 2007
"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily". So begins Alice Sebold's latest novel, "Almost Moon". Helen Knightly is a divorcee, whose elderly mother is suffering from dementia and who is abusive and unpleasant to be around. Her mother is clearly mad - but it turns out she has been so her entire life, it's just the medical terminology that has changed. Helen is at breaking point: she suffocates her mother, dumps her in the freezer and goes off to sleep with her best friend's son.

I enjoyed "The Lovely Bones" and looked forward to reading this book, but I disliked it so much that it was a struggle to finish it. I intensely disliked Helen - I thought she was unbelievably self-centered and I hated the choices that she made. I think it was Sebold's intention for us to dislike Helen but at the same time to understand why she did the things she did (and so we learn about her extremely dysfunctional childhood and failed marriage). Which is fine, and we do grow to understand her, but it doesn't make for enjoyable reading.

Sebold came up with a good premise for a novel - and a great first line - but ultimately she fails to deliver. This is an unpleasant book and I cannot recommend it. If you liked "Lovely Bones" - avoid this.
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on 14 July 2015
This has got to be one of the best books I have read. It is rather dark....but I identified with the characters and laughed out loud and also cried. I would recommend anything written by Alice Sebold and this book is simply the best!
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