- Cullman, Alabama


April 23, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Man In The Blue Moon

I’ve just discovered a new Southern writer. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a book more than “Man In The Blue Moon,” and I’m not an easy reviewer to please. I loved everything about it, from the title on the cover until the last page.

Some of you may already know of Michael Morris, but this was the first of his books that I’ve been privileged to read and review, and it was indeed a pleasure.

As a reviewer, I get sent a lot of books that really should be kept under the author’s bed, but this was certainly not one of them.

Morris does what all writers should do…he wrote about what is familiar to him. The story came to him from Morris's grandfather who lived near the Apalachicola River in a crossroads community. His grandfather swore that the story was true.

Be that as it may, Morris still crafted the characters so well that you’ll think he is writing about someone in his own family, or even yours. The Southern mannerisms (which are where a lot of writers fail) are right on target. He doesn’t use a lot of fake drawls or bad grammar, neither does he overplay his hand when writing about even the most outlandish of them. He just tells his tale in a voice that could come from any of us who claim the Heart of Dixie as home.

The story is set in the heat and dust of northern Florida, just as World War II is about to end. The little town could have been any town you’ve ever seen on the way to Panama City. The people are just like the ones in your neighborhood, some good, some bad, all with a back story to make them interesting.

If you loved “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “The Yearling,” or “To Kill A Mockingbird,” you will love this book.

The cadence of Morris’ tale is the beat of the Southern heart, so familiar, yet with all the surprises, twists and turns that evolve in real life. I have to say that I believe his grandfather’s story. This is the kind of tale that people tell over and over again while sitting on the porch on long summer evenings as the cicadas make their music in the background.   

I admired the main character, Ella, who was a strong, determined woman. I could relate to the relationships she had with her children and her friend, Narissa, an Indian woman who stayed on Ella’s place helping raise three boys and propping Ella up when the need arose.

But by far the most interesting and complicated character is Lanier Stillis, a stranger who arrives uninvited and unexpectedly, in a most unusual manner, bringing with him a secret as old as the Appalachian Mountains from which he came.

The rhythm of the story is perfect. The plot is not the normal boy meets girl and they live happily ever after, but a complex and heartbreaking tale, and in some cases — just like real life.

And, of course, there is a villain. Here again, Morris crafts and shapes him perfectly as a banker who schemes to put Ella and her boys out of their home.

Each and every character is well defined, building the story in a way that gives readers the opportunity to see the personalities grow and intertwine, their lives meshing and gathering intensity as the plot thickens.  

I won’t give the ending away here, you’ll have to read it for yourself, but take my advice, be prepared to spend the weekend curled up with this one, because you won’t be able to put it down.”

Morris is currently at work on his next novel, “The King of Florabama,” which should sound very familiar to some of you, lol.

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