Review of The Oceanography of the Moon by Glendy Vanderah
The Oceanography of the Moon reads like a romance, with superlative moments, emotional encounters with art and music, and clean resolutions to the story's various complications.
Riley lives on her cousins’ Wisconsin farm, where she’s grown up since the death of her mother. She cares for her captivating young cousin, finds peace in the natural world around her, and retreats within herself.
Ten years after her arrival, Riley is twenty-one and has begun to chafe at the small scope of her life. She's sheltered, and she hasn't seen much of the world but is beginning to want to.
When handsome, bestselling author Vaughn Orr stumbles into her family’s remote world, Riley senses that he’s hiding something–a desire to escape that she understands all too well.
Vaughn and Riley feel connected, but they're each burdened by secrets and pain. Can they learn to trust each other and face the past in order to move forward?
The tone and feeling of The Oceanography of the Moon took me by surprise, especially in comparison to Vanderah's first book, Where the Forest Meets the Stars, which felt more complex.
This book felt somewhat like a romance, as characters swoon, repeatedly cry over art and music, feel dramatic angst when they are fake-unable to be together, experience multiple perfectly romantic moments, and make love in superlative locations. They speak about and believe in "magic" connected to the dismantled, carefully arranged elements of clocks by an independent young character, while the real magic seems to be the fact that they are impressively able to overcome the weighty lies and horrors that underlie the beginning of their relationship. Generally I felt more told than shown throughout the book.
As I was reading I felt confident that everything here would be cleanly resolved, and that was the case, including the characters' coping with significant traumas. The clean ending also applied to a suspense element that was deeply related to the characters' origin stories, is introduced late in the book, and is wrapped up in surprisingly short order.
I found it difficult to feel engaged by the characters or the story, and the darker elements here felt glossed-over. I'm in for a satisfying ending, but the wrap-up of the various complex, upsetting complications this story is built upon felt too unbelievably and perfectly achieved, and this felt unsettling to me.
I very much enjoyed the matter-of-fact acceptance of Kiran and his interests, his expression of his identity, and his explorations within the book.
I received a prepublication digital galley of this book (published March 22) courtesy of NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.
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Vanderah is also the author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars, a book I loved, and The Light Through the Leaves, which I haven't yet read.