The River, By Moonlight – Camille Marchetta

moonThe River, By Moonlight” is a beautifully written literary novel about a young artist named Lily who threw herself into the Hudson River, the event witnessed by a passing vagrant who was unable to do anything to stop her. The year was 1917, the people in an uproar over the war, and Lily’s death added to the state of confusion and uncertainty. Henrietta, Lily’s mother, was already concerned over the state of the world, but her daughter’s death shattered her.

Henrietta’s good friend Erich traveled to New York City, site of the death, to identify the body and see what he could find out. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind—the death was a suicide. But why would Lily kill herself? She was lovely, talented, admired. What had led her to this place?

The book is formatted in an unusual, brilliant way. We begin with Henrietta and examine her thoughts and emotions upon hearing of her daughter’s death. As the chapters progress, we see the event through the eyes of Erich, the man who knows Henrietta better than she knows herself, and then Nuala, the girl who runs the household, and then others. We hear of Lily’s death through the eyes of people who loved her and people who did not. We come to know the many sides of Lily by seeing her through the eyes of others after her death. And then, in a unique and stunning twist on the part of the author, the last chapter is written from Lily’s point of view, and we discover what she really was thinking and feeling that led up to her tragic choice.

The language in this book is beautifully crafted, the imagery is rich and evocative. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to examine characters thoroughly and come to know them from the inside out. This author can really write.

(This book was published in 2007 by Publishing.)

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