Thursday, April 09, 2009

Review: 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. [Opening of The Brightest Moon of the Century]

The Brightest Moon of the Century by Christopher Meeks
White Whiskers Books, 2009 (ARC)
Fiction; 312 pgs

Christopher Meeks came highly recommended by fellow blogger and friend Wendy from Caribousmom. Wendy has good taste in books, and so I knew I could trust her not to steer me wrong. Although she hadn't read The Brightest Century of the Moon at the time I agreed to read and review the book, she had read some of the author's other work and knew he was a gifted writer.

The Brightest Moon of the Century is Meeks's first full-length novel. If it is a sign of what he has already written and what is to come, Christopher Meeks is well on his way to becoming one of my favorite authors. In this particular novel, the reader is introduced to Edward Meopian. The story spans a good portion of his life, beginning when he is 14 years old and coming to a close when he reaches his mid-40's, from 1968 to 1999.

This is a difficult book to summarize without giving too much away, but I will give it a try. Edward lost his mother when he was a young boy and is raised by a father struggling to do the best he can under the circumstances. They live in Minnesota where his father works as an encyclopedia salesman. Edward is not too happy when his well-meaning father forces him to attend a private school during his teen years. During the glimpse into his life we are presented, Edward gains a stepmother and stepbrother, heads off to college in Denver, Colorado and makes his way in the world in Los Angeles and later in Alabama. He finds love as well as heartbreak. His life is full of ups and downs as he discovers just who he is, and as he sets off on the path he has chosen for himself. That path does not always go in the direction he anticipated, sometimes taking unexpected detours; and yet it is exactly that which makes Edward's story all the more real and interesting.

The Brightest Moon of the Century is full of funny moments as well as sentimental ones. I laughed out loud on occasion and got teary eyed in others. While I enjoyed every word in this book, my favorite section has to be Edward's stay in Alabama where he and his college friend Sagebrush own and run a mini mart in a trailer park. The two couldn't be more different from one another, one being more interested in playing while the other strives to be responsible. The two men compliment each other, balancing each other out. Small town Alabama was such a contrast from the life Edward had been living in Los Angeles. He grows quite a bit while in the South.

I enjoyed reading about Edward's experiences in graduate school. as well. The rather demanding Professor Neff reminded me of one of my former college professors, albeit in an entirely different field of study. And I loved the moments when Edward struggles to understand girls and women early on in the book. The final section of the book also left quite an impression on me, taking a more serious turn. As quirky and funny as the book could be at times, there was also a seriousness about it. Life is not always easy. It certainly wasn't all that easy for Edward.

As Edward's story unfolds, the author effectively captures the essence of where Edward is in the moment at each point in his life, both mentally and developmentally. As a result, I grew up right along side Edward. I felt his teenage angst, his optimism about the future, his frustrations and disappointments, his hope and the shifting of his dreams. I experienced first hand his transition from boy to man and as he came into his own. The transition was very subtle, as it is in real life. Life events building on one another and the people that come in and out of our lives are a part of what makes us who we are, shaping the direction our lives take. We play it safe; we take risks. It is no different for Edward.

Edward himself is a bit naive in some ways. It's that innocence which makes him easy to relate to initially. He is insecure and yet there is also a confidence about him that balances his character out. He does not realize just how smart and capable he truly is. Edward is a romantic at heart, and, like many, he longs for love, hopes for it and searches it out. He wasn't the cool kid in school nor do the beautiful women flock to his side (although I'm sure he wished they would). He is down to earth; someone who is easy to identify with. He is someone I wouldn't mind having as a friend.

The other characters in the book are just as memorable. My favorite perhaps is Beatrice, Edward's stepmother. She seems to take everything in stride and is supportive of both Edward and Edward's father. Len, the handyman, is another favorite. Like all of the characters in the book, he is flawed, but it is his good intentions and heart that stand out. Many of the characters brought something to the story all their own and made me long to know more about them.

What I got most out of this wonderful novel is a sense of hope. Life is full of bumps in the road, and those bumps make us stronger, helping us to become who we are and who we will eventually be. It's important not to forget to watch that sunset once in awhile.

This world could be heaven on earth if only people let it, Edward realized. Every sunset could show you. Take it. [pg 224]

* * *
You can learn more about Christopher Meeks and his books at the author's website.

If you haven't already, please stop by yesterday's guest post, INTERACTION by author Christopher Meeks where he discusses the interactions between authors and readers: "Later he or she will make sense of it all in a review. Sometimes I learn things about my work that I didn’t see, things that may have been at a subconscious level, by which some of the best writing is guided."

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge & 2009 Pub Challenge


  1. Wendy,
    What a great review!
    I have presented you with an award. Come by and pick it up :)

  2. Wendy, I am SOOOOOOO glad you loved this book and I did not steer you wrong!! Meeks' writing reminds me a lot of John Irving - I can't wait until he writes his next novel. This was a really well-written review :)

  3. This book definitely deserves a place in line on my List. I thoroughly enjoyed the review AND the interview!

  4. This sounds quite interesting - I'll have to look for this author.

  5. What a great review! Isn't it wonderful to find a first novel and know that you are in at the beginning of his work and have so much to look forward to...

  6. This book made it on to my wish list a few weeks ago (tried to win a copy in another book blogger's giveaway, but luck was not with me). I'm glad to see another great review, and looking forward to reading it myself eventually! Thanks, Wendy.

  7. Great review - I've had this one on my wish list for a while.

  8. Great review! Looks like another book I'll have to check out :-)

    BTW, I've given you an award. You can pick it up here.

  9. Just wanted to let you know that you have an award waiting here :)

  10. This sounds like a great, feel-good story. I love that intro you posted - so unusual. Wonderful review, Wendy and yes this one is going on my list!

  11. Terrific review and inteview! Good job. Yet another for the wish list.

  12. I must have missed Wendy's review of this one because I haven't heard of it until just now. But a strong recommendation coming from two Wendys definitely has my attention. Sounds like a beautiful book with flawed and real characters. I'm definitely adding this to the list.

  13. Excellent review Wendy and I already knew that I wanted to read his book just based on yesterday's post!!

  14. Sounds like a great book, I didn't know Christopher Meeks has written other books too. Great review Wendy...

  15. This is off-topic... but I am a first-time visitor to your site, and I love your header! What a cute kitten. Enjoyed your profile pic, too.

  16. Beautifully written review Wendy. Your feelings about the book came across so well. This will be one to add to my wishlist. I'm glad it was such a good and memorable read for you. I love that it left you with a sense of hope-that's just wonderful when a book leaves you feeling like that.

  17. The cover is a little bland but it does sound like a good book.

  18. Oh dear, caribousmom Wendy shouldn't have said that! I'm not a fan of John Irving. Wonderful review though and I trust your taste so I'll just have to forget she said that. ;)

  19. Tanabata: *laughs* Which Irving books have you tried? My favorites are Hotel New Hampshire (who couldn't love a novel where the family has a pet circus bear?!!?) and A Prayer for Owen Meany. I think Meeks reminds me of Irving in that he has terrific character development and his characters are a bit quirky...stylistically he has some Irving qualities, too. But I hope my thoughts won't keep you from reading Meeks' work - he is wonderful!

  20. Great review, Wendy!
    I'll have to check this out. :)

  21. caribousmom Wendy - I've read Cider House Rules, and half of Son of the Circus (are those the right titles?) and just haven't felt any desire to try any of his other books. I know everyone talks about Owen Meany but is he the one who talks in all caps? I just know that would annoy me!

    Terrific character development and quirky characters sounds good to me though so I guess Christopher Meeks is still in with a chance. :)

  22. Stacy - Thank you! And thank you for the award, Stacy.

    Wendy - Thank you for the recommendation and the compliment. I knew you wouldn't steer me wrong. :-) I haven't had a chance to read anything by John Irving yet, but he's on my must read authors' list.

    Sandy - I hope you do read it, Sandy. It is such a good book.

    Elizabeth - I'm so glad I took a chance on it.

    Marie - I had fun while reading it. :-)

    Jenclair - Yes, it is nice. I don't feel like I have to play catch up for years to come. :-) Although the waiting for the next one can be a bear.

    Florinda - I hope you enjoy it, Florinda, as much as I did.

    Kathy - It's definitely worth reading!

  23. Melissa - Thanks, Melissa! I hope you will check it out. Thank you too for the award!

    Desert Rose - Thank you for the award!

    Iliana - I loved the author's writing style. He really put me in the head of his protagonist and I couldn't help but feel like I was right there alongside him every step of the way.

    Beth - Thank you, Beth!

    Diane - You're welcome! Our lists can never been too long, can they? ;-)

    Trish - I'd love the hear what you think of it if you do read it, Trish. Wendy (Caribousmom) has good taste in books. :-)

    Staci - The teaser was tempting, wasn't it? :-) I hope you do get a chance to read his book.

    Eliza - I'm looking forward to trying his short story collections.

  24. Kate - Thank you so much for stopping by, Kate!

    Dar - Thank you, Dar! It's always good to hear that I was able to convey how I felt about a book through my review. I really enjoyed this one.

    Jen - You think so? I actually like it. But then, I do tend to like covers like this.

    Nat - Haha! I haven't read anything by Irving yet, and so I can't say whether I agree with the comparison. I do recommend this book though.

    Melody - Thank you, Melody. I hope you do get a chance to read this one.

  25. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check out his books.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  26. Twenty-seven comments so far. I'm impressed--as I am with your review, Wendy. Thank you. If any book club reads The Brightest Moon of the Century, I will be happy to be interviewed on Video Skype by your club. This is the new age--I'm open to trying new technology. I'm thrilled there's interest in the book. :)

    --Christopher Meeks


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