Jonathan Carroll,
Bones of the Moon
(Avon Books, 1989)

There are two things that clue me in to the fact that I'm reading what will soon be a favorite book. The first is when I completely disappear into the world of the book and want to return there as soon as possible after I put the book down or finish it. The second, which by no means is exclusive of the first, is when I find myself grabbing a notebook to write down passages that resonate within me. Jonathan Carroll's Bones of the Moon met both criteria and started me on a love affair with the author.

A brief plot synopsis cannot do the book justice. Cullen James, our heroine, finds herself experiencing recurring dreams that take her to the world of Rondua, where she meets her son Pepsi and a host of fantastic creatures. Pepsi and Cullen have to recover the five bones of the moon to save Rondua.

Meanwhile, Cullen's real life is no less intriguing. Cullen and her husband, along with their newborn daughter, live in New York City. Below them lives Axe Boy, who kills his family in the first chapter and remains a disturbing presence throughout the novel. Cullen's friends include the wonderfully eccentric Weber Gregston, a Hollywood producer who hates his audience and who stars in another Carroll novel, and Eliot Kilbertus, who delights in Cullen's tales of Rondua. Actually, both of those men are far more than the sum of their parts.

Carroll does a wonderful job painting his characters. Even those who are nothing more than a walk-on receive a full personality and quirks that stay with the reader long after the book is done. Rondua and New York are portrayed as places that are completely real and completely the stuff of dreams -- it depends on your point of view at the time and is always subject to change.

Bones of the Moon was my introduction to Carroll and his take on magic realism. Also evident in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels, magic realism is a literary school that takes the familiar and bends it slightly. Carroll effortlessly weaves Cullen's dream world into her waking world, and the reader never questions the implausibility of it. You want to know more about Rondua and more about Cullen's New York.

As the number of unread pages grows smaller and smaller, you find yourself wondering how Carroll is going to wrap it all up. Here is where he excels and where I really started copying passages. The last few pages of the book are completely unexpected in both their content and in the emotions they produce. It is a rare writer who can make you laugh and cry at the same time. Carroll accomplishes just that.

[ by Tammy Dotts ]