Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith is the December selection of a local book club I'll be visiting tomorrow. One of my friends is a member and invited me. This should be interesting - I've never belonged to a book group before.
I do a lot of reading, and a lot of writing about reading, but not a lot of talking about reading. I'm not sure what to say about Moonlight. It's extremely well-written, but so, so, depressing.
Lili is an 18-year-old girl whose mother, Roxanna, jhas just returned after 13 years of absence. She flew away on angel wings when Lili was five years old. Roxanna was considered a bad luck child, and Lili relives her mother's tragedies. Roxanna was the latest in a long line of runaway women who brought bad luck to their families and the Jewish ghetto in Tehran. The family history is explored in rich detail, and it's a surprise to find ourselves in the near-modern era with Roxanna and Lili, as they live through Iran's recent turbulence and eventually emigrate to America.
The members of Roxanna's family are visited by one tragedy after another; children die, husbands are unfaithful, security is non-existant. Their recurring flights seem to be attempts to escape this Destiny of bad luck - futile attempts. Even after they fly, they are caught in different tragic webs. No-one in this book is happy. They're all terribly sad; they hate themselves and each other. Any stability is fleeting, soon brutally destroyed. Even love is malignant; mothers abandon or try to kill their children, marital relationships turn people to stone. The message, if there is one, seems to be that even though life is not really worth living, it's one's duty to stick by family members. Miriam, Roxanna's older sister (nicknamed 'the Moon' because of her youthful beauty) perseveres in connecting with her niece Lili and the exiled family in California....her persistent attempts to reach out are the only human warmth in the book, besides Roxanna's disastrous adulterous relationship with her husband's father.
The writing and imagery are outstanding, yet I wish I could unread it. I'm just not into the 'downward spiral of misery' type of storytelling. The 'rich tapestry of Jewish Life in Tehran' bit was good, but at the end of the book the tapestry had burned up. What's the point?