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A Thousand Moons

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Barry can write lots of colorful prose. His writing is top notch, but this isn't one of his best books. I wish he would go back to writing about Ireland.
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A THOUSAND MOONS-a sequel to DAYS WITHOUT END. Author is Sebastian Barry.
Historical fiction set in a divided Tennessee in the aftermath of the Civil War.Narrated by Winona,  the Lakota Indian cared for by Thomas McNulty and John Cold, and loved as if their own child. Beautifully written , as always by Barry, and conveys a real feeling for what life was truly like for Indians, Negroes, the victors and the defeated but unrepentant Southerners and their Nightrider component.
Explores the full range of emotions-love , kindness, racism , lying, violence hatred, and maliciousness, and concludes with touching spiritualism.Quite a good read, in my opinion.
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1870s in Paris, Tennessee.  The country is trying to recover from the Civil War.  This book stands on it’s own, but I do believe I would have benefited from reading “Days Without End” prior to this one to familiarize myself with this fascinating group of misfits trying to make it by farming and fighting/dealing with racism.  While the book deals with some horrific events, the prose just carries you along - it’s simply beautiful, which I know sounds odd.  I could easily start this book all over again, it just pulled me in and the rich language is not to be missed.
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A Thousand Moons is a remarkable read—one of those books that is its own creature, with characters one might not have imagined before, but who seem completely true and real. The book is set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. The Narrator, Winona, is an Indian girl, roughly eighteen years old who has been raised by a gay male couple. Life is hard, as you might imagine, for this unusual group, but their love for one another is fierce and courageous.

I don't want to say much about the plot—I think it's a book best entered with a clean slate, so to speak. I do, however, want to encourage people to read this title. It will move you, surprise you, and bring you into a historical moment unlike any you've encountered in school or in other texts about the Civil War.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via EdelweissPlus/NetGalley. The opinions are my own.
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This sequel to Barry's stunning DAYS WITHOUT END is beautifully written (the man can craft a sentence).  And for the first quarter of the book, that was enough. But try as I might, I found it difficult engage with Winona's story. Her voice doesn't always ring true, and her motivations and actions also lack consistency. The real disappointment, however, is the novel's ending. Without giving spoilers, what Winona learns in jail from Frank Parkman reads more like something from a cheap horror novel. The book unravels spectacularly, as unbelievable melodrama sounds the final notes.  What a disappointment.
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In this sequel to Sebastian Barry’s searingly powerful Days Without End, we hear the tale of Winona Cole, adopted by Thomas McNulty and John Cole after her Lakota family was slaughtered in the Indian Wars in Wyoming. While this story could stand alone, it is far richer and meaningful to know what led up to the fiercely loving family’s life on a farm in Tennessee. 

Told in a vernacular voice reminiscent of its time, Winona narrates her existence, keenly aware of her status as a “non-person” in the wider society, but loved, educated, and protected by her rough and tender saviors. She is an innocent despite her horrific experience in the West, and when she is violated by an unknown aggressor, she isn’t even sure anything really happened. Her dawning knowledge and persistent investigation of what happened to her form the core of the book. Through her ingenuity and courage we come to know the character of the white men who rampage over the South, the long-suffering decency of the former slaves, and the unexpected love one finds along the way.

Sebastian Barry has such a talent for putting the reader in the center of the story - as if we are listening to Winona tell her tale in the same room as us. If there is a soul on earth who can come away from this experience not having their heart broken - and heeled- by Winona, Thomas McNulty, and John Cole, they must not have one.

Thanks to Penguin Publishing Group and NetGalley for the eARC.
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In A Thousand Moons, Sebastian Barry continues the saga of Thomas McNulty, John Cole, and Winona Cole, who collectively constitute one of the most unlikely family units in literature.  Set in the 1870s about a decade after the events described in the author’s magnificent Days Without End, this book is told from the point of view of Winona, a girl from the Lakota tribe who John and Thomas, themselves an unlikely married couple, adopted after her relatives were killed in a military raid.  The main story combines a tender coming-of-age tale with three interrelated mysteries—finding out who committed the brutal assaults on two of the main characters, as well as the eventual murder of a third—and how these events impact Winona’s life as she is maturing through her teenage years into adulthood.

I was particularly eager to read this novel because Days Without End was one of the best and most interesting stories I have come across in a long time.  Told from Thomas’ perspective in language that was poetic and almost breathtakingly beautiful, that work tells an intimate, engaging, and harrowing tale that is cinematic in its sweep.  Unfortunately, A Thousand Moons is not really any of those things and, as a consequence, suffers from the comparison.  The main problem is that while Thomas’ narration was so perfectly wrought in that earlier book, the author never really gets Winona’s voice quite right here, vacillating as it does from the broken and stilted sentences of someone coming late to a language to emitting philosophical expressions you might expect from a well-educated person twice her age.

This is also an uneven and much less ambitious story that feels quite claustrophobic at times.  Set entirely in the farming community around the small town of Paris, Tennessee, most of the action in the novel is spent describing Winona’s day-to-day routine as she works on the family farm, keeps the books for a local attorney, and tries to solve the central mysteries in her spare time.  Much of what transpires in the story was simply not that interesting and the resolution to the crimes comes quite late in the book and is not much of a surprise.  (In fact, only two of the three mysteries are concluded definitively; the resolution to the third is referred to in a very oblique manner.)  Finally, the character of Peg, a Chickasaw Indian girl who becomes Winona’s friend and companion, is drawn far too sketchily given her importance to the tale.

So, while A Thousand Moons is a good book that merits attention, it falls short of the high standard that its talented author has set for himself.  It may be possible to treat this as a standalone work, but the truth is that it contains so many references to events that occurred in Days Without End that the story might make less sense if read in isolation.  I certainly enjoyed becoming immersed again in the lives of these beloved characters, but this was not a wholly satisfying reading experience for me.
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