Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review of Therese Walsh’s The Moon Sisters

By Kim

Synopsis of The Moon Sisters (from the book jacket):

After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds, taste words and smell sights—is determined to travel to the remote setting of her mother’s unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest.

Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn't be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what really is important.

Author photo by Rachel Rene
About the author (from the book jacket):

Therese Walsh is the author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and the co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children.


I read and loved Therese Walsh's first novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, shortly before I took a trip to Rome back in 2010. Loved it enough that I spent half a day in Italy hunting down the Mouth of Truth, which played a part in the novel. If you don’t know what the Mouth of Truth is, here is a photo of my daughter beside a much smaller version.

It didn't bite her!
Since then I've come to know Walsh through Facebook and Writer Unboxed, and have been privy to a few of the trials and tribulations that took place while she wrote The Moon Sisters. It’s a more personal novel than her last, and I believe it was kismet that Walsh chose a condition like synesthesia to bestow on her character, Olivia. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where senses overlap, allowing a person to hear color, for example, or taste words. It would be impossible to write from that viewpoint without taking all perceptions of how the world worked, tossing them out, and starting over.

Walsh likely did much the same in her own life this past summer, when she endured a terrifying health scare. This crisis added a deeper layer of poignancy to an already mystical novel. The Moon Sisters is lush and literary, a feast for senses. It left me questioning how different life would be if I trusted my instinct half as much as my eyes, and forced me to confront some of my own prejudices. This was at times both unsettling and cathartic. I won't forget Olivia Moon or the train-hopper who "tasted like tomorrow" anytime soon.

I highly recommend The Moon Sisters. It’s the perfect novel for women to read and pass on to their sisters, their mothers and their closest friends. I foresee it creating many lively discussions at book clubs.

A final (personal) note:

About halfway through The Moon Sisters I researched synesthesia and discovered that my own child likely has a form of it called mirror-touch synesthesia, a condition where if she sees someone else get hurt she feels pain in the same location. I've known about her unusual ability since she was four. She happened to come into the living room when my husband and I were watching a survivor show. The host accidentally cut his hand and she immediately grabbed her own hand and screeched. When I asked what was wrong she said she "felt that." We assumed she was just highly empathetic, but over the years have come to suspect there was more to it. Now twelve, she can read The Hunger Games, yet can’t watch even the slightest bit of violence, even cartoon violence without “feeling it” on her own body. This makes seeing movies with peers pretty much impossible.  

Said child was relieved to learn there may be an explanation for something she has always considered to be a curse.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced copy of the book mentioned above gratis in the hope that I would mention it on this blog. Regardless, I only recommend books I've read and believe will appeal to our readers. In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” I am making this statement.


  1. Excellent review, Kim. Can't wait to read "The Moon Sisters". Had the pleasure of reading "The Last Will of Moira Leahy" while living in Italy. I have a good shot of the actual Mouth of Truth. Love, though, the version you posted. Greatly appreciate your personal note. I feel Sasha's relief.

    1. I do, too. It has gone from being a "curse" to a sort of super-power.

  2. Thank you so much for this beautiful review, Kim! I remember the first time you told me about Sasha and your suspicions. It really does sound like she has synesthesia. Hopefully her doctor will agree, and you can move forward with knowledge in your pocket.

    1. I will have information in hand the next time we see her pediatrician. Hopefully they can refer us to someone familiar with synesthesia and we can find out if that's what is going on. I hope it is, for her peace of mind. It would be a relief to be able to hand teachers a doctor note to get her excused from traumatizing assignments.

  3. So interesting about synesthesia. My daughter (now 18) has a form where as a young child she was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. We learned later it was because she was having to translate every word she heard into an image and she couldn't learn the word until she had an image to go with it. Sometimes the images hurt her ears (specifically S words), because she associated them with images of sharp objects.

    Now that she's 18, she's pretty much got an image for every word she encounters, so it's much better. Crazy times!

    I'm looking forward to reading Terese's book! Thanks for the review and alerting me to the synesthesia aspect of the story.

    1. Abigail, that must have been quite a challenge for your daughter! Glad to hear it all worked out now.

      My daughter struggles socially at times because she can't watch the things her peers watch without being in physical pain. I plan to ask her pediatrician for a referral at her next doctor appointment. A diagnosis would allow us to send her to school with a note to help her get some modified assignments. For example, she would have much preferred to read a book on the Alamo to sitting and staring at her desk with her fingers in her ears for two days while her class watched a movie on it. The virtual surgery assignment for science was pure torture. Thankfully, it was not graded, because she got no further than marking where the incision would go before she had a meltdown.

      Learning about synesthesia has helped her to see that other people are out there who are like her.


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