Saturday, May 2, 2009

REVIEW: The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg

Dear Martin, I'm sorry the note I left you was so abrupt. I just wanted you to know I was safe...I won't be back for awhile. I'm on a trip. I needed all of a sudden to go, without saying where, because I don't know where. I know this is not like me. I know that. But please believe me, I am safe and I am not crazy, I felt as though if I didn't do this I wouldn't be safe and I would be crazy... And can you believe this? I love you. Nan

Sometimes you have to leave your life behind for a while to see it and really live it freshly again. In this luminous, exquisitely written novel, a woman follows the pull of the moon to find her way home. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always honest, The Pull of the Moon is a novel about the journey of one woman -- and about the issues of the heart that transform the lives of all women.

My Review:

In Pull of the Moon, you follow along with Nan on both her physical and emotional journeys, shared with you through her diary entries and letters to her loved ones.

Nan is fifty, married with a grown daughter, and she has reached that point that I think many women reach at some point. She has spent her life as a wife and a mother, and has forgotten who SHE is, and now is consumed by the additional fear of losing her youth and desirability as she faces the physical changes of menopause. So she packs up, hops in the car, and just leaves her husband with a note of apology. She travels around the country, getting to know herself again, remembering who she is and what she likes and what she wants, while writing in her diary and writing letters to her husband to share with him the discoveries that she is making along the way.

I'll just say it. I LOVED this book. I can't truly identify with Nan. I've never lost my identity. Perhaps it's because I've never had children, and I've been divorced for ten years. So I have been able to maintain a better sense of my self. Perhaps it's just because I have a very strong knowledge of "who I am", as I never had any fear of losing myself during my ten years of marriage either.

So I found myself not really identifying with this place where Nan had found herself: feeling lost, depressed and on the verge of losing her mind along with her identity. However I could still identify with HER. She is every woman, on the basest of levels. And I love the way that author Elizabeth Berg causes me to turn the mirror on myself with a little "Aha!"

I like Nan. I like how she reminds me of things that I haven't thought of for a long time, I like when she makes observations like "...and soon we were all laughing, it was the kind of thing where the laughter feeds on itself, where the sound of someone else's snorting and wheezing keeps you going until you don't even know why you started laughing in the first place-- and you don't care. It's so good for you, that kind of hard laughter, so cleansing-- you feel like your liver's been held up and hosed down, your heart relieved of a million grimy weights." I remember that feeling, although it's been a long time since I felt it. Remember sitting around with your girlfriends, giggling hysterically, and someone would ask what was so funny, and you'd just shake your head and say "I don't know", look at each other, and laugh even harder?

I love the clear and descriptive visual analogies of statements like "Today I woke up and felt the old pull of sadness back. It's like a robe that is too heavy, weighing down my shoulders, dragging up dirt as it follows along behind me." This is one of my favorite lines from the book.

Even though I am divorced with no children, and am at a very different place in my life, there is a part of me that could identify with Nan. I could identify with her when she confessed, "I wanted to be able to tell Ruthie how to be popular, how to make and keep friends. But I was-- and still am-- pretty much a loner, one who wearies of almost anyone's company much too soon...Even when I got older, I'd be sitting with a bunch of college friends and suddenly have to leave...I wanted Ruthie to be different from me, to be someone who could make casual conversation without clenching her fists, who could be comfortable at a party." I think that most women can identify with Nan at some point. There's a little Nan in all of us.

Last night I sat in the movie theater, reading my book while we waited for the movie to start (Hugh Jackman buffed as Wolverine), and reached over and whispered in my boyfriend's ear. "You know how I'm always telling you that if I don't have someone to share an experience with, it's as if it never happened? Like 'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?'" He nodded. "In my book she says, 'Occasionally, one learns quiet, and then how to keep it. Even me, who has always felt that everything must be shared, in order for it to be.' See? Nan gets me."

And so she does.

Product Details
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (October 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425176487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425176481

My Rating: 9 out of 10


Mary (Bookfan) said...

What a great review! I'm adding the title to my TBR list. I'm going to see E. Berg in ten days. She'll be doing a reading of her new book at my favorite Indie book shop. I'll look for The Pull of the Moon when I'm there.

Staci said...

Your review was absolutely wonderful!! Another friend of mine suggested this book and it just happens to be only one of a few Berg books that I haven't read. I'm definitely going to be moving it up on my list!!!

Anonymous said...

I see you have The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener on your Wish List. If you're interested in receiving a review copy, please email your mailing address to me at Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I LOVED this book, too. I have so many places marked because so many of the passages spoke to me - even though I am in my 30's and don't have children. I agree that there is a little bit of Nan in all of us.
This was my first Berg book and still my favorite. Thanks for reminding me why I loved it :)