Best Book of the Week!
It will be difficult for me to put into words how unusual Mountains of the Moon is. The novel is about a woman’s act of creating herself despite a past that is nearly crippling, but its unusual quality is primarily in the style of narration.
At the beginning of the novel, Louise Adler is 31 and newly out of prison. She is doing what she can to make a fresh start, fixing up her dreary apartment, trying to find any kind of job.
The story shifts to when Lulu is a little girl. Brought up with her grandfather’s stories of the Mountains of the Moon, she pretends she is a Masai warrior, dressed in a bright strip of cloth and holding her spear on a perch high above the neighborhood.
Her home life is difficult. She loves her older brother Pip, but he is sent away to live with his father because of “disloyalty” to his mother. Her verbally abusive mother keeps her out of school and makes her stay up all night listening to her talk. Her physically abusive father is often away with his other family. When Baby Grady arrives, he is left to Lulu’s care much of the time, but she adores him.
This portrait of the imaginative little Lulu is charming, but fear always lurks around the edges of her world. We know something goes wrong for her, but Kay spins the story out by interleaving it with the present one. A third story line returns to when Louise is 21 and learning to deal blackjack at a casino. At that time, she becomes fatefully involved with a girl named Gwen and her friends.
Louise is a woman of many names and identities. As a child she plays gleefully with language, gobbling up new words but only saying parts of the ones she knows. As an adult she finally begins trying to make sense of herself as a person.
This novel is sometimes brutal and harrowing, other times endearing. Its narrative style reminds me a bit of that of The Bone People.We like Louise/Lulu and we want her to succeed, but there are secrets in store. This story is one of an unforgettable character.