Vanderah’s The Oceanography of the Moon, Review: Enchanting

The Oceanography of the Moon, Glendy Vanderah’s enchanting third novel, is about shedding secrets, the power of love and redemption. Read my full review.

The Oceanography of the Moon Synopsis

The Oceanography of the Moon by Glendy Vanderah, Book Review

From the Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars.

After the untimely deaths of her aunt and mother, young Riley Mays moved from Chicago to her cousins’ Wisconsin farm. Here she found solace in caring for her extraordinary adoptive brother, exploring the surrounding wild nature, and gazing at the mystical moon—a private refuge in which she hides from her most painful memories. But ten years later, now twenty-one, Riley feels too confined by the protective walls she’s erected around herself. When a stranger enters her family’s remote world, Riley senses something he’s hiding, a desire to escape that she understands well.

Suffering from writer’s block, bestselling novelist Vaughn Orr has taken to the country roads when he happens upon the accommodating, if somewhat unusual, Mays family. He’s soon captivated by their eccentricities—and especially by Riley and her quiet tenacity. In her, he recognizes a shared need to keep heartbreaking secrets buried.

As the worst moments of their lives threaten to surface, Riley and Vaughn must find the courage to confront them if they’re to have any hope of a happy future. With the help of Riley’s supportive family, a dash of everyday magic, and the healing power of nature, can the pair let go of the troubled pasts they’ve clung to so tightly for so long?

(Lake Union Publishing, March 2022)

Genre: Romance, Drama, Mystery, Literature

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Book Review

I had some reservations about Glendy Vanderah’s debut novel Where The Forest Meets the Stars (my review), but have just found her third novel The Oceanography of the Moon utterly captivating.

Firstly, for those expecting magical realism, that’s not what’s on offer here. One of the many things that had me spellbound, was the special lens that Vanderah’s narrative applies to people, objects, and nature. It’s as though she, and several of her characters, view the world through a high contrast and high saturation filter, and thus are witness to the magic and serendipity to be found in the everyday. Her artistically vivid descriptions of natural flora, fauna and even the changing weather conditions, cultivated an enchanting sense of tension between the characters and their surroundings.

“Everything connects in ways we can’t comprehend”

Strikingly refreshing also is the uncommon level of open-mindedness and selfless goodwill displayed by Vanderah’s beautifully developed secondary character set, who are amongst the most authentically endearing I have read.

“a heart that loves can’t be reasoned with.” 

Ultimately though, The Oceanography of the Moon is a highly romantic, psychologically charged drama with surprisingly dark depths, propelled by the unravelling of painful secrets and one of my favourite narrative constructs – dual alternating first-person lead character perspectives. It is clear early on that Riley Mays and Vaughn Orr both have trauma in their pasts, but readers much more gradually come to understand the full depths of their respective trauma, different coping mechanisms, lasting impacts and their influence on present-day behaviour.

The maturation of Glendy Vanderah’s writing is clear to me in both this novel’s sensitive exploration of trauma and mental anguish and the engagingly sharp and whimsically intelligent dialogue between its deep-thinking leads. The moral complexities explored in this story would make great fodder for book club discussion.

If you are in the mood to get wrapped up in a shocking, gritty mystery in a warm blanket as the sun’s rays burst through storm clouds, then I unreservedly recommend The Oceanography of the Moon. I found it hard to put down.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5 ; Overall 4.75

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More The Oceanography of the Moon reviews

“Set against a backdrop of family and the mysterious, all-encompassing beauty of the natural world, Vanderah’s gloriously readable new novel is a warm story of two damaged people desperate to heal and to find hope, resilience, and—just perhaps—each other.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You and With or Without You

“Glendy Vanderah’s beautifully rendered The Oceanography of the Moon tackles the enormity of fate, identity, and climate crisis, while tending to the most delicate intricacies of the human heart.”—Julie Carrick Dalton, author of Waiting for the Night Song

“Steeped in her signature love of nature, Glendy Vanderah weaves the intersecting lives of two strangers…. This story unwinds the knots that lie buried beneath the surface in an exploration of the meaning of family and the deservingness of love.” —Kelley McNeil, author of A Day Like This

About the Author, Glendy Vanderah

Glendy Vanderah is the Wall Street JournalWashington Post, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars and The Light Through the Leaves. Glendy worked as an endangered-bird specialist in Illinois before she became a writer. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in rural Florida with her husband and as many birds, butterflies, and wildflowers as she can lure to her land. For more information, visit her website.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.