The Brightest Moon of the Century, by Christopher Meeks.
Near mid-century when Edward was born, the full moon was years from being the brightest. That would happen -- in terms of luminosity and size -- in the last month of the century. As a child growing up, however, Edward found much splendor and mystery in the moon. It kept changing and following him around, a rock with its own rhythms, much like girls, and he knew he was years away from understanding girls. - from The Brightest Moon of the Century -
Christopher Meeks has transitioned from short stories to his first novel -- and the result is a book which draws the reader in with humor, empathy, and a gentle understanding of what it means to live our lives with a sense of wonder.
The Brightest Moon of the Century is organized into nine distinctive chapters which allows the reader to experience the life of Edward Meopian from the age of 14 through his 45th year. Edward is a bit of a nerd and socially naive, a character who consistently made me feel for his struggles and celebrate his triumphs. As a young boy, he loses his mother to a tragic accident and it is perhaps this one event which shapes the man he ultimately becomes. Forced to attend a private boys' school by his father (who is seeking his own happiness while struggling in his role as single parent), Edward must confront bullies and figure out his place in the world. Edward's teenage challenges and search for love in the first two chapters reveal Meeks' finally honed sense of humor and understanding of what it means to be young.
Guys would never talk about, say, what brand of acne medicine they were using, or what great pants another guy was wearing, or wow, good color for a golf shirt. Didn't girls want to know how far someone got on a date? Or did they talk about how their boyfriends got boners and they happily let them suffer? The more suffering, the better a girl you were? If so, Annie was a fantastic girl. - from The Brightest Moon of the Century -
Edward moves from his childhood home in Minnesota to college in Colorado, later makes his way to Los Angeles (where he tries to follow his dream of becoming a movie director), and finally ends up in rural Alabama managing a mini-mart in a trailer park (my favorite part of the book). It is through these years of his life that Edward struggles with self-discovery, faith, and fate.
"Failure seems to follow me around," said Edward.
"You're no failure, son," said the officer, and Edward turned to face him. "This is God," said the man. "Or the disorder of life, if you like. This is what we all have to live with." - from The Brightest Moon of the Century -
In the final chapters, the reader watches Edward grow into middle-age and discover that often the joys of life are balanced with pain. Edward is revealed as a man who empathizes deeply with others and never loses his hope and optimism despite tragedy.
And this is what I love about Meeks' writing ability -- he gives us characters who are very human and who face many obstacles in life, and then he infuses their stories with hope. As in his previous short story collections (reviewed here and here), I found myself caring deeply about the characters in The Brightest Moon of the Century. Meeks writes with a wry humor as he shows Edward tripping and stumbling through the world with a refreshing openness to what life has to offer.
He was simply going to be open to the moment, like a sunflower or the Hari Krishna guy at the airport. - from The Brightest Moon of the Century -
Christopher Meeks' work is joyful, funny and sensitive. The Brightest Moon of the Century is a satisfying read and one which made me hope that Meeks will continue to write novels.
Four stars out of five.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".