Thursday, August 07, 2008

Shooting the Moon

Dowell, Frances O'Roark. 2008. Shooting the Moon.

One of the best books ever. Trust me. Here's how it starts:
The day after my brother left for Vietnam, me and Private Hollister played thirty-seven hands of gin rummy, and I won twenty-one. They were speed-ball games, the cards slapped down on the table fast and furious. My brother, TJ, was going to war, and I was fired up hotter than a volcano. TJ and I had grown up in the Army, we were the Colonel's children, but that was not the same as being a soldier in the very heart of combat.
"Whoa, hoss, slow down," was the first thing Private Hollister said when I'd charged into the rec center that morning, ready for action, but not exactly knowing what to do with myself. I'd been a rec center volunteer for three whole days, which had mostly involved picking up crumbled Coke cans from under the pool tables and handing out Ping-Pong paddles to soldiers. But now I couldn't settle myself down enough to go check the chore list on the clipboard Private Hollister kept on his desk. I wanted to spin around in circles, do jumping jacks, drop to the floor for a hundred push-ups. Big things were happening, and the excitement of it all was running through my veins and winding me up tight.
"Here. Sit." Private Hollister pulled out his desk chair and motioned for me to take a seat. "You got the look of a girl who don't know whether she's coming or going."
He sat down across the desk from me. "You ever play cards? 'Cause back home in Kentucky when we'd get too rowdy, my mom would get out the cards and get us playing poker or Hearts, just anything to make us sit down for a few minutes and relax."
I nodded. All at once my excitement had found a place to land. (1-2)
Beautifully written--almost lyrical in fact--Shooting the Moon is the story of a girl, Jamie Dexter. Twelve-and-going-on-thirteen, Jamie has a lot to learn about life, about love, about family, and about friendship.

Up until the time when it's her own brother being sent to war, Jamie has never doubted the Army for an instant. Never doubted the justness of the war. In fact, even when it's her own brother going, she's happy and proud. She loves him--no doubt about it--yet she doesn't question the rightness of his being a soldier. And his going to war doesn't terrify her. And as strange as it may seem, Jamie wishes it was her going to war. She's grown up idealizing the Army, almost worshiping her father who is a Colonel.

But once her brother is there, once she has seen what he's seen (in a very limited way), then she begins to question everything. How does she "see" the war? Her brother--instead of writing the traditional letter--sends her his film to be developed. He asks her to develop his film for him. So Jamie learns from one of the soldiers at the rec center how to develop film. She finds it to be a very precise, very demanding hobby. But she loves the work. She's excited to be trusted with her brother's film since photography is his hobby, his passion. Working with his film, she still feels connected to her brother. This experience, along with her developing friendships with some of the other soldiers including Private Hollister, change her mind about the war, about many things really. Some of the glamour, some of the glory is removed, it's true. But what she finds is the truth harsh and raw as it may be.

Shooting the Moon is her journey, her story. Full of depth and true meaning-of-life "stuff," Shooting the Moon is one of 2008's must read books.

Other reviews: Read, Read, Read, A Fuse #8 Production, Kiss the Book, Brenda Ferber's Blog, a wrung sponge, Dog Ear, A Year of Reading, 100 Scope Notes,

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Laura H said...

That was a good book. Wish the end didnt wrap up so fast. Great recommendation. THanks

Melissa said...

Just finished it; blew me away. Amazing book. Good review, too. (I have no idea what to write!)