Moonrise (King)

Cassandra King, 2013
Maiden Lane
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781940210001

Moonrise is a novel of dark secrets and second chances, New York Times’ bestselling author Cassandra King’s homage to the gothic classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

When Helen Honeycutt falls in love with Emmet Justice, a charismatic television journalist who has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, their sudden marriage creates a rift between her new husband and his oldest friends, who resent Helen’s intrusion into their tightly knit circle. Hoping to mend fences, the newlyweds join the group for a summer at his late wife’s family home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Helen soon falls under the spell not only of the little mountain town and its inhabitants, but also of Moonrise, her predecessor’s Victorian mansion, named for its unique but now sadly neglected nocturnal gardens. But the harder Helen tries to fit in, the more obvious it is that she will never measure up to the woman she replaced.  

Someone is clearly determined to drive her away, but who wants her gone, and why? As Emmet grows more remote, Helen reaches out to the others in the group, only to find that she can’t trust anyone. When she stumbles on the secret behind her predecessor’s untimely death, Helen must decide if she can ever trust—or love—again. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Lower Alabama, USa
Education—B.A., M.A., Alabama college
Currently—lives in the Low Country, South Carolina

Cassandra King is the author of five novels, most recently the critically acclaimed Moonrise (2013), her literary homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Moonrise is a Fall 2013 Okra Pick and a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) bestseller. It has been described as “her finest book to date.”

Fellow Southern writers Sandra Brown, Fannie Flagg, and Dorothea Benton Frank hailed her previous novel, Queen of Broken Hearts (2008), as “wonderful,” “uplifting,” “absolutely fabulous,” and “filled with irresistible characters.” Prior to that, King’s third book, The Same Sweet Girls (2005), was a #1 Booksense Selection and Booksense bestseller, a Southeastern Bookseller Association bestseller, a New York Post Required Reading selection, and a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

Her first novel, Making Waves in Zion, was published in 1995 by River City Press and reissued in 2004 by Hyperion. Her second novel, The Sunday Wife (2002), was a Booksense Pick, a People Magazine Page-Turner of the Week, a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month selection, a Books-a-Million President’s Pick, a South Carolina State Readers’ Circle selection, and a Salt Lake Library Readers’ Choice Award nominee. In paperback, the novel was chosen by the Nestle Corporation for its campaign to promote reading groups.

King’s short fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Callaloo, Alabama Bound: The Stories of a State (1995), Belles’ Letters: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women (1999), Stories From Where We Live (2002), and Stories From The Blue Moon Cafe (2004). Aside from writing fiction, she has taught writing on the college level, conducted corporate writing seminars, worked as a human-interest reporter for a Pelham, Alabama, weekly paper, and published an article on her second-favorite pastime, cooking, in Cooking Light magazine.

A native of L.A. (Lower Alabama), King currents lives in the Low Country of South Carolina with her husband, novelist Pat Conroy, whom she met when he wrote a blurb for Making Waves. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Cassandra King’s new novel Moonrise is both something familiar, like a well-loved leather recliner, and a writer’s mind game, which challenges the reader to keep up with sentences, plot and characters.... The tour de force of writing comes from King’s choice of voice.... [T]he plot moves along, and there are enough twists to make it a satisfying Southern read, with men and women the reader feels could be met along the small street in Highlands, or overhear their conversations at the local watering hole.
Stephanie Harvin - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

At this point many will recall, correctly, Daphne Du Maurier’s modern gothic masterpiece Rebecca, published in 1939 and set in Cornwall, England, in 1927. King happily acknowledges the inspiration, but Moonrise is fully her own, not a retelling or an adaptation.
Tuscaloosa News

In Moonrise, Cassandra King weaves the mystery of place and event into the truths of heart and heartlessness that shape human relationships.
Susan Zurenda - Spartanburg Herald Journal

Moonrise touches all the right notes to make it a suspenseful story and also a romantic one. Kudos to Ms. King for getting it right.... King's best asset is her ability to create a glowing array of characters in this story.... This is King's first novel since Queen of Broken Hearts was published in 2006 and her popular writing style has been missed. She has always been able to create heart-warming stories that play to the reader's emotions and intelligence and with Moonrise she continues that tradition. This is a story that impacts the reader, and its mixture of emotions will linger long after you have closed the book.
Jackie K. Cooper - Huffington Post

King’s latest novel takes inspiration from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, keeping the best of the latter’s atmospheric tension without falling into melodramatic cliche.... [Moonrise is] a suspenseful modern Gothic that gives a nod to its predecessors while still being fresh. The choice of present-tense narrative is an unfortunate distraction, but King’s light touch even in scenes that could have bogged down, and her deep understanding of her characters’ motivations makes this an exciting read.
Publishers Weekly

Much is made in this work's publicity of its homage to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, which is not surprising. There's an almost scarily magnetic husband, a somewhat gauche second wife gingerly following a universally admired first one, and a misty, strikingly beautiful estate.... King nicely focuses on untangling...complex emotions, which makes for the real suspense. Verdict: Though occasionally too stiff in the Rebecca parallels, this is a fresh and charming read. —Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal

When a book is inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, you know it is going to be darkly romantic and full of perplexing secrets. In Cassandra King’s hands, the bones of the story remain, but the setting is new and the characters are differently motivated, making Moonrise feel both fresh and familiar.... By the end of the book, it has become less of a ghost story and more about jealousy and sabotage of a different kind than we read in Rebecca, thus both mimicking and moving farther away from the du Maurier model.... Moonrise is a compelling and readable novel, and is a nice companion for brisk fall evenings or stormy nights.

[A] rhododendron tunnel leading to a beguiling ancestral home, the strange death of a first wife, an increasingly confused heroine—King's latest alludes heavily to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca....[C]onstant reminders of Rosalyn's elegance make [Helen] only more keenly aware of her own shortcomings. [N]arrative shifts, however, deflect attention from Helen's mounting fears, deflating du Maurier's haunting psychological thriller into a predictable tale of romantic obstacles.... Gothic echoes of Manderley and the first Mrs. de Winter set up unfulfilled promises.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1.  Houses play an important role in Moonrise in any number of ways, and they are often contested spaces--either inherited, temporary, or uncomfortable, etc. How does architecture contribute to our understanding of the characters in the novel? How are the houses revealing of larger constructions of "home"?

2. Early in the novel, Tansy observes, "The graveyard is where all our stories end." Is this true? How does the nocturnal garden at Moonrise challenge (or confirm) Tansy's claim?
3. Water is an important symbol in Moonrise, as it is in all of King's work.  It takes many forms here: the drought, the experience at the falls, Kit's Oriental garden, the rain at the novel's conclusion, to name a few.  How does water function as a symbol in the novel?
4. Moonrise is told from three distinct narrative perspectives. What might we conclude about the voices that are absent from the novel, however, most obviously Rosalyn's?
5. One of the concerns of the novel is the legitimacy of narrative: Emmett possesses the authority of his news channel, and thus is a "trusted interpreter" of events.  How is Helen's cookbook also an important text?  Rosalyn's journal?   Myna's poems?
6. Like Maxim de Winter, Emmett is the older, wealthier, and arguably more powerful partner in his marriage, and, in fact, his role in Helen's success remains unclear. (Kit and Tansy intimate that he assisted in the creation of Helen's cooking show, but this rumor is never disproved.)  How does power play out in their relationship? What parallels are evident here between Moonrise and Rebecca?
7. What role does nature (butterflies, the garden, the mountains, etc.) play in the novel? How is it both threatened and threatening?
8. Moonrise is filled with unconventional relationships-the friendship between Willa and Linc, the connection between Tansy and Noel, and even the "sisterhood" of Rosalyn and Kit.  Many of these characters define themselves in very conventional ways according to expectations of class and gender. How do these friendships allow characters to see themselves in new, less restricted ways? What risks are inherent is stepping out of these established boundaries?
9. Meals become a site of dramatic tension throughout the novel. Revisit some of the scenes that revolve around food, and examine the ways that the food itself speaks to issues that the characters themselves are unable/unwilling to articulate.
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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