For anyone who’s read my previous Tom Spanbauer review, Faraway Places, I mentioned how he was the proponent of dangerous writing. The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon makes that book look like a fairy tale in comparison.
Here he doesn’t hold back to any degree; sex, violence, incest, and everything in between. Nothing is left to the imagination – this is writing on the edge!
It took Spanbauer four and a half years to write, and seven redrafts to get published. I can only imagine what content was turned away.
Shed out back
Set in a magical realm of an old-style Western, the book follows Duivichi-un-Dua, also known by his nickname Shed. This shortened name was given to him after he begins to make money for his landlord, Ida, by having sex with the men who frequent her saloon.
Yep. This is a story of a bi-sexual, bi-racial Indian who struggles to find identity, in part due to his mixed heritage. It doesn’t help that his mother is killed when he’s aged just ‘ten or eleven’ – oh, and he gets raped by her killer along the way.
All this happens in the first few chapters, so when I say this book is a tour de force of extremes, I mean it.
These points also make the book incredibly difficult to put in one particular category. It has cowboys and Indians so is it a Western? But it also has a gay lead character in a time when this was utterly taboo. Does that make it LGBTQ? Or contemporary in any way?
Man and the Moon
As the title suggests, the premise focuses on Shed’s father, an Indian man who believes the moon has its own way of communicating with him. It can guide him through life, warn him of impending dangers, and even show him the true nature of the people around him.
I’d also like to point out how beautifully designed the front cover is. It captures every essence of what this book is about, touching on all the crucial plot points.
Despite the characters being completely fucked up, they’re still credible in their own right. They act according to their own motives, which are often only revealed after death, or during times of immense struggle.
This dynamic between the characters and the reader always poses a point of frustration. You’re continually looking for signs of why Ida, for example, would act this way towards Shed if she truly loved him. But don’t fear; these qualms are all presented through different scenarios throughout.
I found myself relating to different characters in different situations here. Shed suffers from the immense pain of not knowing his mother well, and has never met his father; he feels isolated from everyone else.
This forces him to make alternative choices when pressured by those holding all of the power.
The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a testing book, one that takes a level of commitment to get through, even more so if you’re of a sensitive disposition.
Dense with humor, philosophical wonderings, and plenty of pain to contend with, I could never do it justice with a single review. I’ve not even begun to cover the Bannock / Shoshone storylines.
Ida reminds us throughout that true stories are the best stories. I guess writing reviews is nothing more than telling my own stories.