The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane is an examination of a marriage in crisis. Malcolm and Jess have been married for over a decade. Jess is a lawyer, and Malcolm owns a bar called The Half Moon.
The novel begins with their separation, and through alternating POV’s, Malcolm and Jess recount how everything started, with an unexpected pregnancy while she was in law school and before he bought the family owned bar he had worked at all of his life.
This is not a romance novel. It is a novel that takes a step back and takes a broad look at the many different experiences and choices that make up a marriage; that make up a life. Neither Malcolm or Jess are perfect, and their marriage certainly isn’t. The reader knows more about Jess than Malcolm, and more about Malcolm than Jess. They have both lived in the same small town their whole lives and even that affects who they are and what their marriage looks like.
The book jumps back in forth in time, from perspective to perspective, and the plot slowly builds to a tipping point where Malcolm and Jess must make a decision. Do they stay in a marriage that is not what either of them imagined for themselves? What makes a marriage successful? If life doesn’t turn out the way you expected, can you be happy with what you have?
The present-day portion of the novel takes place over a few days, during a massive blizzard that wipes out the power. To me the most compelling part of the book was Malcolm, alone in his empty house with no power or distractions, and the ways he attempts to stay busy so he can avoid his loneliness. I felt for Malcolm during those moments.
I’ll say that the mood for this book was difficult at times, but overall it’s a wonderful book. If you like books that ask the question: what exactly makes a family?, then you’ll surely enjoy this book. I gave it 4/5 stars. The book is similar to Happy Place by Emily Henry but without the rom-com element.
Malcolm Gephardt, handsome and gregarious longtime bartender at the Half Moon, has always dreamed of owning a bar. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches to buy the place. He sees unquantifiable magic and potential in the Half Moon and hopes to transform it into a bigger success, but struggles to stay afloat.
His smart and confident wife, Jess, has devoted herself to her law career. After years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. Like Malcolm, she feels her youth beginning to slip away and wonders how to reshape her future.
Award-winning author Mary Beth Keane’s new novel takes place over the course of one week when Malcolm learns shocking news about Jess, a patron of the bar goes missing, and a blizzard hits the town of Gillam, trapping everyone in place. With a deft eye and generous spirit, Keane explores the disappointments and unexpected consolations of midlife, the many forms forgiveness can take, the complicated intimacy of small-town living, and what it means to be a family.