Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

“They think I hurt someone. But I didn’t. You hear? Cos people are gonna be telling you all kinds of lies. I need you to know the truth.” – Ed, Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Greetings bibliophiles, I’m sorry that I’ve been MIA the past couple of months, but retail at Christmas time leaves little room for anything else. However, as always, I’ve made time to read, and boy have I found some showstoppers. I’m going to kick things off with Moonrise by Sarah Crossan. My lovely sister Donna gave me this little beauty for Christmas. I’d already added this one to my reading list. So, I was delighted when I received this stunning hardback edition. Sarah Crossan is an Irish author. She is best known for her sensation novel One, which received countless awards including the Carnegie Medal. Naturally, my expectations were high, and I’d heard rave reviews, but even so, this novel blew me away. Moonrise is nothing short of exceptional and will undoubtedly become a future classic.

Where do I begin? This book is unlike anything I have ever read. From it’s unique format, to it’s heart wrenching subject matter, this one instantly grabs you. You are engrossed from the moment you open that first page, and long after you’ve turned the last. It is a free verse masterpiece, written entirely in short prose. It reads like pure poetry. The only thing which dominates its lyrical beauty is the tragic circumstances in which it’s characters have been thrust.

The story is narrated by seventeen-year-old Joe. Sadly, a decade has passed since he has seen his big brother. The reason for this couldn’t be more despairing. His brother Ed is in on death row. He has been convicted of murdering a police officer. Ed swears his innocence, but unfortunately, no one believes him. Even Joe has his doubts. He wants to believe his brother was everything he remembered him to be. But, as time goes by and he gets older he begins to question just how well he knew his former idol. It’s safe to say that Joe’s childhood has been far from idyllic. His family has been shattered beyond repair. Along with losing his brother, his father died when he was young, and his mum is an addict. She came and went as she pleased until eventually walking out on Joe and his sister, Angela, for good. They have been left in the care of their Aunt Karen, who believes Ed is guilty.

Joe’s world grinds to a halt when Ed’s execution date is set. He immediately drops everything, including a summer scholarship in athletics and heads for Texas with little more than the clothes on his back. He wants to be there for his brother during his final days. And so, the grueling countdown begins. Joe longs to reconnect with his brother, and to find out the truth about what really happened that fateful day. To stay close to Ed, he finds work and an apartment in Texas, neither of which are very glamorous. He also finds something he wasn’t looking for at all, in the arms of a waitress named Nell. She provides a flicker of light during this grim period. However, she is concealing a secret which may extinguish even that.

I found this book very emotionally challenging. It really makes you think, and question your own beliefs and ethics. If you are anything like me, it will have you clenching your teeth in anger one minute, and in tears the next. It forces us to examine the society in which we live. Personally, I am completely against the death penalty. I think the only people it truly punishes are the families of the convicted. I am shocked that it still exists today. Not only is it barbaric, but it is completely corrupt and inconsistent. How two people can commit the same crime, and receive varying degrees of punishment dependent on race, class, or the state in which the crime was committed, baffles me beyond belief. It is a truly horrifying thought that innocent people may be awaiting their death due to a corrupt and incompetent legal system.

I hope this book helps to further spark a dialogue on the matter. If you are interested in finding out more about this topic and the inspiration behind this story, I advise you to check out the 1987 BBC documentary Fourteen Days in May. This film follows Edward Earl Johnson on his final days on death row, it made a lasting impression on the author and inspired her to tell this story.

For a short read this novel packs one hell of a punch. You are not going to forget this story. To sum it up is a difficult task. It’s powerful, honest, artistic, thought provoking, delicate, harsh, beautiful and horrifying. I would recommend this one to absolutely everyone. Even if you aren’t much of a reader, or have a busy schedule, this one won’t take up much of your time, and it will leave a lasting impression. 10/10. With that, I bid you farewell. My next recommendation will be for Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, I’ve only just started it but I’m already bursting with praise. Until next time, may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry.

“Ed was convicted of shooting a cop, a pretty ugly thing to do. But you don’t see every killer getting gurney, some guys get 15 years. Others get life. So death for Ed but not for everyone. Cos it all depends on who you kill and where you kill them too. Like don’t shoot a white cop in Walker County, Texas. If that’s your plan, do it in Arlington, New York. No needles or electric chairs there. Just doesn’t seem fair to me. Just seems a bit fucking random.” – Joe, Moonrise by Sarah Crossan