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The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer

Reviewed:
by Kristopher Cook
The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer Book Cover
Synopsis:
Shed: a half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at the Indian Head Hotel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. It's the turn of the century, and the hotel carries on a prosperous business as the town's brothel. The eccentric characters working in the hotel provide Shed with a surrogate family.
Genre: Contemporary
Available from: Amazon UK | Amazon US
Time to Read: 3 minutes

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 in 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.

What’s a human being without a story?”
Tom Spanbauer, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
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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

The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer Book Cover
The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon front cover.

As the title suggests, the premise focuses on Shed’s father, an Indian man who believes the moon has its own way of communicating to 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.

Native Destruction

Despite the characters being completely fucked up, they’re still credible within their own right. They act according to their own motives, which are often only revealed after death, or during times of immense struggles.

In the square pen behind America’s barn, the buffalo, my mother’s people, standing at the fence looking out, trying to find where home was, why we were living, trying to remember how things used to be when we walked around free.

Tom Spanbauer, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

This dynamic between the characters and the reader always pose 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.

Closing Thoughts

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 humour, 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.

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A reader of all-things challenging. What's the point in reading if it doesn't elevate you? I include Chuck Palahniuk, Keigo Higashino and Will Christopher Baer as some of my favourite authors. Feel free to send me your favourite books on the networks below.

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