The Moon Always Rising, by Alice C. Early

Where better to take a break, recharge one’s mental batteries, than on the Caribbean island of Nevis? That’s certainly what protagonist Els Gordon of Alice C. Early’s The Moon Always Rising thinks when she arrives on the island. She wants to put the pressure of work and grief behind her. But, as any Scot like Els can tell you, the best laid plans aft gang aglae. This vivid book tells a story of stubborn people finding love, healing, purpose, and a new life on Nevis.

The opening of The Moon Always Rising tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Els. Els runs into a finance colleague and accepts his offer to go sailing. She’s used to making nice with others to make deals and investments. This doesn’t mean that Els is willing to take any crap. When this colleague pulls her into the water (still clothed) and then tries to push her into sex, Els pushes back in no uncertain terms. Els will not be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to do. The only bright spot of the trip is meeting Liz (a nickname because he had a pet iguana for years), another emotionally wounded person who is doing their best to keep moving forward.

Els’ plans to stay on Nevis for a couple of weeks immediately change when she sees Jack’s house. Jack died during the last hurricane after a drunken and ill-advised trip down to the sea wall. Everyone tries to warn her away from the house; they all believe that it’s haunted. Els brushes off all the warnings only to discover that, yes, it is haunted. Els falls in love with the house even though it needs a lot of work and is inhabited by some monkeys and a ghost. Her trip turns into an immigration. Something about Nevis and Jack’s house speak to Els. Within a week, Els has quit her job, bought the house, and sought citizenship.

What I loved most about this book is that nothing is too easy. From dealing with local bureaucracy to her own emotional struggles, Els’ progress towards her new life is slow enough that I believed it. Els is a prickly woman who has good reasons for how she feels. If Liz had been able to sweep Els off her feet right from the beginning, I wouldn’t have gotten so emotionally invested in her story. I have a hard time trusting a happily-ever-after that comes without honest struggle.

The unifying, overall plot of The Moon Always Rising is diffuse. The book is highly episodic as Els hires people to repair Jack’s house, in addition to facing old and new emotional challenges. So much happens in this book that book groups and readers who like realistic stories of psychological journeys will have plenty to talk and think about. Early’s rich description of the setting really made Nevis come alive for me—a wonderful bonus on top of the wonderful character development in this novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.