Edward Meopian is sent to a new school by his father,who wants him to have the opportunities he never had. Edward doesn’t fit in with his clip-on tie, but eventually gets a real one, which is also yanked on by his fellow eighth-graders.
So begins a series of chapters of Edward’s life in The Brightest Moon of the Century where he grapples with girls, college, part-time jobs, cross-country traveling, marriage, fatherhood, and midlife.
While the beginning is not full of adventurous action, it moves along at a compelling and visceral pace as little Edward is thrown into his new school. Meeks describes the “wood floors that had nearly seventy years of yellowed varnish, the color of dead man’s fingernails." Also, Meeks captures the hormonal nature and obsession with sex often plaguing teenage boys.
After awhile, however, the story seems to lose its momentum. As a novel, the chapters do not transition smoothly. As a short story collection, the stories do not feel complete.
The author skips past parts I would have expected to hear more about, which is his prerogative as the author, but I found it disruptive. I was left thinking, “What’s the point of him telling me this?” For example, take a scene in which Edward initially arrives at college. Details are given about a note left on their dorm room door by his roommate’s girlfriend, yet we never meet the roommate or girlfriend. The roommate drops out of school, but it happens when we aren’t participating in the story. What was the point of even bringing it up?
There are good moments in this book, such as when Edward is using a bong and “smoke bubbled through the water, like guppy farts,” or when the author philosophizes through Edward about how adults are often just like children and that “we’re all refugees from our childhoods.” These gems stick out like colorful lollipops.
However, I also found the book to be pedantic and didactic, which is distracting and annoying. I couldn’t hear Edward talking because the author was drowning him out with unnecessary detail or condescending delivery of factoids. I’ve only ever seen this kind of blatant pedantry in a self-published book.
The story also lacks sufficient tension and conflict to keep the pages turning. Any potential for conflict withers quickly into something nice and agreeable. Some passages begin a chapter much later than where the previous chapter ended and recaps what happened in between, passively telling us what happened rather than actively showing us.
For this reviewer, The Brightest Moon of the Century is hit and miss, but mostly miss.