Light of the Moon, Luanne Riceís latest novel, introduces us to Susannah Connoly, an anthropologist at a small college in Connecticut. Devastated by her motherís recent death and estranged from her long-term partner, Susannah feels lost in the quagmire that has become her life. With the encouragement of her mentor, she decides that it is time to get away and take a trip to Camargue, France Ė the trip that she and her mother had been planning to take since Susannah was a child. The Camargue region is best known for its white horses, but Susannah has a different reason for going there: the saint who was responsible for her birth, Sara-la-Kali. Susannahís parents thought they would never have children until going to the saint and praying for a child; Sara-la-Kali blessed them with Susannah.
Upon arriving in the Camargue, Susannah meets Grey Dempsey, a journalist-turned-horse rancher living with his daughter, Sari. Sariís mother, Maria, was a gypsy who left the family when Sari was only eight years old. In desperation, Sari rode her horse, Mystere, in pursuit of her mother, only to be thrown when her horse was frightened by oncoming headlights. Now, five years later, Sari has all but recovered from the physical traumas of that event (with the exception of her lingering colorblindness), but the emotional damage is still raw. Whatís more, she has not even visited her beloved Mystere since the accident. Understanding that Sari is exceptionally fragile, Grey puts his personal life on hold in order to accommodate her. However, once he meets Susannah, he has more and more trouble with that decision, especially when he sees how good she is with Sari. As the three grow together, they learn about friendship, family, and what the bond between a mother and daughter really means.
Light of the Moon is a wonderful story of the mother-daughter relationship and how nothing can replace this fragile bond. One of the best aspects of the books is that many points of view are presented, so that by the end of the book, there are no ďbadĒ characters. There is deeper meaning behind every decision made, and Rice makes sure the reader is aware of this. Often in stories, it is all too easy to demonize one character and elevate another. However, in Light of the Moon, the characters face bad decisions they have made in the past and, at least in part, realize that they may be complicit in their own situations. For example, the most frustrating of these in the book is Sari. She is fragile, damaged by her motherís departure, and therefore seems to sabotage any relationship her father has. While this is understandable given the predicament she finds herself in, Sari realizes that she is perpetuating her unhappiness by not allowing anyone in rather than taking a chance on something new. It is frustrating to read this storyline as Sari makes this personal journey.
The one superfluous aspect of the story is Ian, Susannahís former lover. He seemed rather unnecessary, and his characterization changes entirely through the book (he doesnít seem like the same character at the end as he was at the beginning). Part of this may be due to Susannahís experiences in France: she sees him in an entirely new light after being in the Camargue. However, that doesnít explain it entirely. There also is little closure to that storyline, as he simply disappears as a character in the middle of the book.
One of the qualities that makes the book a sheer delight to read is the setting. Most readers probably donít know much about the Camargue, or that it is famous for white horses. It is always nice to read about a place that you are unfamiliar with, and Rice has a talent for making the setting an integral part of the novel. The reader canít imagine the story taking place in any other locale; Camargue is as much a character in the book as Susannah or Grey. It is a pleasure to read her beautiful descriptions of the area. Iím certain that anyone who reads this book will feel a longing to visit the Camargue.
Light of the Moon is a touching story that is a joy to read, and while there are frustrating aspects to the book, Rice more than makes up for them with her wonderful descriptions and moving relationships. It is a story of a woman seeking her maternal roots and how important that mother-daughter bond really is.