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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Moonlight Water: A Musician Finds A New Life in the American Southwest

My favorite Western was originally published as The Rock Child and written by Win Blevins.  I found it on a library sale cart a number of years ago.  It was re-issued as Of Love and Demons in 2013.  I'm not sure that title reflects the content, but The Rock Child is still the only book I've read dealing with a Native American who meets a Tibetan nun in the 19th century American West.  Blevins also throws in Mormons and the explorer Richard Francis Burton. It's unlikely that you'll find another book in the Western genre that's more astonishing.

I have now re-encountered Win Blevins's name on the cover of a contemporary fiction novel co-written with his wife, Meredith Blevins called Moonlight Water.  Although I am a mystery fan,  I have never read any of  Meredith Blevins' Annie Szabo mysteries.  I should probably remedy that situation.   I think the occasional instances of beautiful poetic phrases in Moonlight Water are probably hers.

What drew me to this new Blevins was the Southwest cover. I first learned of its existence from a Goodreads notification of new releases by authors that I've read.


I would call Moonlight Water quirky.  I stand by the genre classification of contemporary fiction even though there's a small element of what is often called magical realism.  I will leave readers to discover it themselves.  I will also leave readers to spot a slightly altered version of one of the authors' names among the characters.  I was fascinated by the unusual Mexican-American Mormon character and wanted to know a great deal more about her.  Whether you like or dislike these offbeat facets will depend on your taste.

What I enjoyed most in this book is the role of music.  It's transcendent, and it can redeem people who may appear to be lost beyond redemption.   This is one of my very favorite tropes in fiction.  I felt that the musician characters were portrayed authentically.  Like all performers, one of the flaws of  musicians can be self-absorption.  Rob, the musician protagonist, makes an effort to overcome his self-absorption even though he doesn't always succeed.

I found the archaeology component problematic.  It's important that readers realize that the context for artifacts that have been removed from a site that wasn't properly excavated can never really be established.  This novel implies that this can be done.  The most that can be done is extrapolation based on other sites containing similar artifacts that have been properly excavated, but such a theoretical reconstruction may not be accurate at all.  There also might not be any similar site that was properly excavated because pot hunters have ruined so many sites.  Pot hunters destroy the stratigraphy  which is how archaeologists determine context.  Each level of an archaeological site needs to be studied to discover how the artifacts relate to each other, and establish the most likely date for that level.  Organic matter that is fragile and important to interpretation is discarded by pot hunters because it has no value to them.  The authors seemed to want an unambivalent happily ever after resolution, but there is none for a violated archaeological site. 

Perhaps if  Moonlight Water had been a romance  I would have expected the overindulgence in HEA.  Although there are romantic relationships between characters, this book is no romance.   Other aspects of the novel, other than the plot strand involving archaeology, are portrayed more realistically.  This is why I removed one star from my Goodreads rating.

I did notice that one of the characters in Moonlight Water is going to be the protagonist of The Darkness Rolling which is a Win and Meredith Blevins future release.  According to the description, it will be a historical mystery which I hope will successfully meld the talents of both these authors.



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