The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The moon has always had an ethereal draw – even after astronauts proved it was not made of cheese and the man in the moon was made of craters. The glow from the moon can change a mood – wolves howl, lovers connect,  the sea shimmers.

In Sarah Addison Allen’s latest book,  The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Emily Benedict comes to live with her grandfather in the town her mother left and never looked back.    She finds lingering suspicions, old loves concealed in the carvings in the surrounding wood, and a chance to redeem her mother’s reputation.

More a love story than a mystery,  Allen’s quirky writing asks you to suspend belief with wallpaper that changes with the mood of the inhabitant, a real giant (eight feet tall), and a genetic disposition in the town’s elite family that would make Tinkerbell jealous.    Throw in a couple of star-crossed lovers, a baker of aromatic cakes, and a family feud – you have the makings of a good beach read.

Allen’s characters follow a familiar formula.    The two main characters both have mothers who died when they were teens; both are struggling for acceptance and love in a town with a memory – all’s well that ends well.

Allen’s Garden Spells, also set in North Carolina about a family with special gifts, was less contrived and more fun to read.    The charm of Garden Spells will remind you of another favorite – Laura Esquivel’s  Like Water for Chocolate – cooking with a touch of magic.  If you like the idea of using ingredients and attitude to cook up a dish to literally affect others’ moods, you will like both of these.

If you only have time for one – go with Garden Spells.