Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris
Published by Tyndale
Review copies received at SIBA and for the She Reads book club

From the publisher:

“He’s a gambler at best. A con artist at worst,” her aunt had said of the handlebar-mustached man who snatched Ella Wallace away from her dreams of studying art in France. Eighteen years later, that man has disappeared, leaving Ella alone and struggling to support her three sons. While the world is embroiled in World War I, Ella fights her own personal battle to keep the mystical Florida land that has been in her family for generations from the hands of an unscrupulous banker. When a mysterious man arrives at Ella’s door in an unconventional way, he convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure, and a tenuous trust begins. But as the fight for Ella’s land intensifies, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear. Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family.

After hearing Michael Morris speak at SIBA, I was convinced that I needed to read Man in the Blue Moon, and when She Reads selected it for the November book club selection that was the extra little push I needed to prioritize the novel. I’m so glad about that because I really enjoyed this book and was charmed by so many aspects of this novel.

I think my absolute favorite aspect of this novel was the setting, both place and time. The way that Morris described the stifling Florida humidity and small-town life in this post-war era brought the entire thing to life before my eyes. Truly, the city of Apalachicola was itself a character in the novel and upon finishing the book, I wanted desperately to travel there to see it for myself.

I also loved getting to know Ella throughout the book. I found her such a feisty, intelligent, and interesting woman of her time and while I didn’t love every single one of her choices, it was clear to me that she was committed to taking care of her family in whatever way she had to. I admired her spirit, tenacity, and yes even her desperation. I have seen a few readers say that they had difficulty connecting with her character but I have to say that I felt exactly the opposite – I was drawn to her from the start and it was her development throughout the novel that really kept me turning the pages.

The struggle that Ella went through to keep her family’s land tugged at my heartstrings and I found myself legitimately angry at the people in her life who were attempting to sabotage her every attempt to do so. To Morris’s credit, he wrote the “bad guys” in such a way that I actually did sympathize with them to a point – I understood why they were set on getting Ella’s land for themselves, but my understanding of their motives didn’t make me any less frustrated with how cruelly they treated Ella and her family.

I truly enjoyed Man in the Blue Moon and I would point to it as an excellent example of Southern fiction. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline, and Morris created such a rich atmosphere with the time and place. I would definitely recommend this one!