Moonlight on the Nantahala follows a wise old widower in his waning years as he befriends a lonely young woman by the Nantahala river. Edward has moved out of the house he built for his wife, but love and memories draw him back and lead him to ponder how much we lose when we seek convenience. Michael Rivers’ novel lets the reader listen in on thoughts and conversations, watching the play of light on water, the touch of love in an unseen hand placing chair and meal in just the right location, the sharp conversation of old friends (so much like my beloved Gran and Granddad arguing), and the gradual change in the weather, as slow as the aging of Edward’s old bones.
Sentences are long and languid, old-fashioned and curiously formed. Love wears many guises, from Edward’s fierce determination to let nothing change, to Lena’s wounded recognition of a marriage gone wrong. Edward’s not afraid to express his opinions, of people, politics, housebuilding and more. Betty’s not afraid to care for him and boss him around. Meanwhile Lena slowly learns to confide in him.
The exchange of confidences between Edward and Lena is nicely done, a short happy marriage contrasting fiercely with a miserably haunted one. Slowly Edward learns to delight in what he’s lost, while Lena learns how to lose what she never possessed. The house is redeemed. The husband is worn down. And love wins.
I found this a slow read, comfortable but occasionally frustrating, best enjoyed on a long and lazy summer’s day.
Disclosure: I enjoyed other people’s reviews of this book and decided to get it as soon as it was offered free.