The Moon Sisters launches today from Crown Publishing. In a stroke of savvy marketing—and no small measure of fun—the excerpt arrived with a personality quiz for readers and a guide for book groups, both of which follow the selection.
Therese Walsh is a cofounder of the blog WriterUnboxed.com. She lives in upstate New York, with her husband, two children, a cat, and a bouncy Jack Russell named Kismet. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is her first novel.
She says, “Each chapter of The Moon Sisters begins with some form of reflection from either Olivia or Jazz. Sometimes these reflections are a single memory, sometimes they’re puzzle-piece realizations about how life up to that point created the person they have become. I fell in love with these segments, and would look forward to writing them and learning more about the sisters as the story progressed.”
In this outtake, an introduction to Chapter Seventeen entitled “Scars,” Jazz reflects on the snuffing out of her creative spirit. (If you sense that the spark within her hasn’t really died, you might be right.)
From The Moon Sisters
© Therese Walsh 2014
When I was a child, I dreamed of being a writer one day like my mother, and there was no one more excited over her book. The end of the story loomed like a mysterious doorway—the portal to Narnia or the passageway to the world of the will-o’-the-wisps that my mother wrote about.
The fairy-tale nature of her writings made it easy to dream big back then. My mother would be an author, and we’d take grand trips, buy a fancy house, and drive the best cars built. We’d hire a maid, and a cook. We’d wear designer clothes and shoes, and everyone in school would be envious of me for once. As I grew, the idea of her finishing appealed on a more philosophical level. Finishing one story would mean being able to start another. It would mark both the completion of a cycle and an evolution. Be a proof, of sorts, that you could overcome difficulties and that perseverance paid off.
The End. What would happen when we reached The End?
But every time my mother faced the final chapters she’d grow sleepy, need to take another nap. Finding her bent over the typewriter, her eyelids drooping and with a blank page before her, was not an uncommon sight at any time of the day.
As the years passed, I hated more and more that I felt any disappointment over this, that I was still capable of caring. Hated, too, that every once in a while my mind still tried to write—sometimes when I was at the shop, kneading bread, or when I was at home, boiling water for pasta, or about to drift off to sleep. I’d think up a new premise for a play, or have a thought and not realize I’d formulated it as a haiku.
Knead it, let it rise
Roll it, fold, and roll again:
Journey of the dough.
In this small way, I understood her, though. Not the specifics, like how she thought finishing her book might initiate a reunion with her father. How he would enter, stage left, and present her former life to her like a prize. How the puzzle pieces would fit together with gratifying perfection. How, then, everything would be forgiven. What I understood was the bigger picture.
Old habits died hard.
Old dreams died harder.
Moon Sisters Personality Quiz
To introduce you to The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, we’ve put together this fun personality quiz. Take it to determine if you’re more like Olivia or Jazz Moon, and learn something about the characters and yourself along the way. Just take note of the icon after each of your answers. The number of stars, suns, and moons will tell all in the end. Let’s go!
Someone offers you your favorite cookie. You:
- Take the cookie and eat it immediately, enjoying each and every speck of it. ☼
- Take the cookie and thank the person, but decide to eat the cookie after dinner. ★
- Wonder if this person wants something from you in return. ☾
You’ve taken a long walk and unfortunately you’re lost. Which sounds most like what you’d do next?
- Keep walking. There’s so much to see, and you’ll probably find your way back eventually—or someone will come looking for you. ☼
- Look for a nearby phone if you don’t have one on you, or ask for directions some other way. ★
- Roll your eyes at the question, because you would never be lost to begin with. Besides, who walks around in areas they’re not familiar with? You’re most likely busy doing other things, like making dinner for your family members who are too busy to do the same because they’re . . . out walking! ☾
Which quote resonates the most with you?
- “I have always been fond of recognizing the spiritual side of someone’s personality. It’s a very lovely concept.” —Drew Barrymore ★
- “I keep my own personality in a cupboard under the stairs at home so that no one else can see it or nick it.” —Dawn French ☾
- “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.” —Mae West ☼
An acquaintance of yours was caught doing something illegal. The evidence against him is overwhelming. You:
- Wonder what happened to get this person so off track, and hope that they find their way back and into a better life. You’ll keep him in your thoughts. ★
- Think that all of mankind is doomed to an existence of falseness and unhappiness, and wonder why your migraines are getting worse. ☾
- Believe in his innocence regardless, because you always thought he had kind eyes and a warm-syrup voice that made you smile. ☼
If you were a color, what color would you be?
- Orange, the color of sunshine. ☼
- Green, a color that inspires harmony. ★
- Blue, as reliable as the sky—which can also turn grey and black. ☾
If you couldn’t answer that question because your mood changes too often, gather two additional moons. ☾☾
If you couldn’t answer that question because color itself has personality, and you wouldn’t want to insult the color by adopting it without permission (yellow is really sensitive, after all), gather two additional suns. ☼☼
When you consider your dream job, you:
- Snort. It’ll never happen. Not in your town. ☾
- Sigh. It’ll happen. You’re not sure how, exactly, but you have faith. ☼
- Smile. You’re in it. ★
You see a bear out in the wild. You:
- Want to run but don’t because it might antagonize the bear. Instead, you walk away carefully, eyeing it the entire time. Later, you have a panic attack. ☾
- Climb a tree, but not to escape the bear. The angle is better up there for taking a photo. ☼
- Smile, because you’re standing in your living room and the bear is in the backyard raiding the bird feeder. That’s fine with you; everyone has to eat. ★
The book most likely to be found on your bedside table is:
- A novel. Maybe a fantasy. Something full of adventure and rich descriptions. ☼
- A diary. To record all of the day’s activities and muse a little before bed. ★
- A book—fiction or nonfiction—by an existential philosopher like Albert Camus. ☾
It’s time for a family photograph. You:
- Take your seat and gather the rest of the family around you, quieting whatever arguments begin about who should stand where. ★
- Have a hard time sitting still, so you stand up behind your sister and splay two fingers behind her head to give her devil horns. ☼
- Glare at the devil-horn giver. ☾
Have you gathered more stars, suns, or moons?
☾ If the answer is moons, you may be a Jazz! Jazz is a little hard-edged and skeptical by nature. She loves a good dose of sarcasm, several times a day, and is always reliable—though she may not like that aspect of herself or may feel others take advantage of her. She’s a frustrated deep thinker, and mercurial sometimes because of that. But she’s likely to face and conquer whatever challenges are thrown her way, sometimes despite herself.
☼ If you’ve gathered more suns, you could be an Olivia! You have a spontaneous nature, and are as likely to climb a tree or a roof to watch a sunset as you are to hitch a ride across the country or hop a flight to Miami Beach (or to Hollywood . . .). You’re a creative soul who thinks the best of people, even if you sometimes drive them crazy with your wild ways. Your fearlessness is probably more charming than you realize.
★ If you’re a star gatherer then you’re a—surprise!—Babka! We added Babka—the wise grandmother in The Moon Sisters—to the list, because everyone needs a Babka in their lives. You’re that person, probably to many. You’re rarely rattled by life’s twists, but rather take them all in stride and handle crises with a brilliant mix of intellect and instinct. You’re a great listener, and your sage guidance is exactly what the Jazzes and Olivias of this world need.
If you have a jumble of stars and moons and suns, you may be too complex a person for this quiz to distill. So complex, in fact, that you should be a character in Therese Walsh’s next novel. Come just a little closer, why don’t you, and pull up a chair . . .
For more information about The Moon Sisters, visit ThereseWalsh.com.
The Moon Sisters
by Therese Walsh
Reading Group Guide
1. Early in the story, Babka told her granddaughter, Olivia Moon, “Dreams like feet, better than knees,” which helped set Olivia and Jazz’s journey in motion. What did she mean by that? Do all of the characters embrace this idea, or do some resist it?
2. Consider Branik’s belief that there are always two ways to look at things. When were characters made to see things in a different light? Were you, as a reader, ever surprised to find your perspective on something changing as you read, be it a character or situation? What prompted your shift?
3. Olivia’s blindness is self-inflicted. Why do you think she stared at the sun? Has Jazz limited herself in other ways? How? Do you believe that narrowing life choices is a form of self-defense?
4. What do Beth’s letters represent throughout the story? Why do you think Beth never sent them? Why do you think Jazz and Olivia similarly hid her letters from each other and the outside world? What would it have meant to let them go?
5. What do Hobbs’ coins represent? Can you draw a comparison between the letters and the coins?
6. Babka always said that the secret to life could be found in a bag of marbles. What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree? Does anyone in your family have a secret to life?
7. Some, including Olivia, might say Jazz has an obsession with death. Why do you think Jazz has a collection of obituaries in her backpack? Why does she want to work at a funeral home? Does she want to find something there, or let go of something? What is she grappling with?
8. It’s said that we unwittingly become our parents, and that our parents often coerce us into fulfilling their unrealized ambitions. Do you feel Olivia has adopted any of Beth’s old ambitions? What about Jazz? Does this make sense with Beth’s assertion that Olivia is her “old-mirror daughter,” while Jazz is a “new mirror”? Do you see “versions of self” in your family?
9. Consider the idea of atonement. Jazz felt Beth lived most of her adult life seeking atonement for the behavior that led to an estrangement from her father. Did Jazz live her life similarly? How? Is atonement a possible motivation for any of Olivia’s actions throughout the story?
10. “All of the best living happens on the edges.” What do you think Hobbs means by this? Do you agree with him?
11. While walking past the Mill Point Federal Prison, which had been an open prison, Hobbs tells Jazz that “prison is a state of mind.” Why do you think this statement stays with her for as long as it does? How is the idea relevant to her life?
12. What do the will-o’-the-wisp lights represent to Beth? What do they represent to Olivia? Is this the same or different?
13. It’s thought that will-o’-the-wisp lights, or “foolish fires,” are never attainable. What do you think? What “foolish fires” are in your own life? Do you pursue them, or watch them from afar?
14. Do you believe that Olivia succeeds in finding the lights in the end, or not?
15. How are both Olivia and Jazz altered by their journey? What do you think each of them will take away from their time together that could help them throughout the rest of their lives?
16. Olivia said that hope, to her, tasted like “a mix of berries, just a hair shy of ripe, with a drizzle of honey and another drizzle of lemon, and coffee with cream, and ice water when you hold it in your mouth until the ice melts. With a dash of salt. And maybe some mint.” If “hope” had a taste for you, what would it taste like? What would it look like? What would it sound like? Would you fight to preserve it? How far would you go in the name of hope?
17. What do you think happened to Beth? What are your thoughts on her last letter—what it said, and what became of it?