Cover image for Behind the moon : a fever dream
Title:
Behind the moon : a fever dream
ISBN:
9780872867369

9780872867444
Physical Description:
286 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"When Julie skips school and sets off with her best friend and some local boys for a camping trip in the desert, she finds herself the target of unwanted, drug-fueled sexual attention. Running away in fear, she takes a dangerous fall down the shaft of a vast underground cave, and it takes two days for her to be rescued. Lying unconscious in her hospital bed, Julie hovers between life and death as she travels in a seductive parallel universe inspired by remarkable cave paintings left behind by prehistoric humans. Marko, her attacker, tries to cover his tracks, menacing those who know what happened in the desert that night. Jamal, the youngest son in a family of Iraqi refugees living in Julie's small town, is one of his prime targets. He defies Marko, keeping him away from Julie's bedside and refusing to fall prey to his threats of violence. Meanwhile, Marissa, who gave Julie up for adoption fifteen years earlier when she became pregnant as an adolescent, is following an instinct that leads her back to the daughter she once abandoned. With the aid of Jamal and a local Native American hitman/shaman, she attempts to draw Julie back to consciousness. Madison Smartt Bell is best known for his trilogy of novels about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, including All Souls' Rising, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. He is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, and Professor of English at Goucher College"--
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O Magazine''s Top 20 Books to Read - Summer 2017

"Best known for his acclaimed Haitian trilogy--All Souls'' Rising,Master of the Crossroads andThe Stone That the Builder Refused--Bell draws on his own experiences with voodoo possession to re-create his characters'' descent into a sinister otherworld. The novel toys with perspective--women shape-shifting into rocks or animals; the same life-or-death scene played repeatedly, with myriad outcomes--in a kind of primal storytelling that crackles with dread and desire."--O Magazine

When Julie skips school and sets off with her best friend and some local boys for a camping trip in the desert, she finds herself the target of unwanted, drug-fueled sexual attention. Running away in fear, she takes a dangerous fall down the shaft of a vast underground cave, and it takes two days for her to be rescued. Lying unconscious in her hospital bed, Julie hovers between life and death as she travels in a seductive parallel universe inspired by remarkable cave paintings left behind byprehistoric humans.

Marko, her attacker, tries to cover his tracks, menacing those who know what happened in the desert that night. Jamal, the youngest son in a family of Iraqi refugees living in Julie''s small town, is one of his prime targets. He defies Marko, keeping him away from Julie''s bedside and refusing to fall prey to his threats of violence.

Meanwhile, Marissa, who gave Julie up for adoption fifteen years earlier when she became pregnant as an adolescent, is following an instinct that leads her back to the daughter she once abandoned. With the aid of Jamal and a local Native American hitman/shaman, she attempts to draw Julie back to consciousness.

Madison Smartt Bell is best known for his trilogy of novels about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, includingAll Souls'' Rising, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Praise forBehind the Moon:

"Madison Smartt Bell writes with the urgency of someone who just received a dire prognosis. AndBehind the Moon will remind you that you are alive."--Jonathan Safran Foer, author ofHere I Am

"Between fever dreams and stone hard reality, Madison Smartt Bell has crafted a powerful examination of what is and what might be. It is simply wonderful."--Dorothy Allison, author ofBastard out of Carolina

"I love these characters. I love the writing.Behind the Moon is a brilliant work." --Percival Everett, author ofHalf an Inch of Water

"Bell gives us this fast-paced, spiritually inspired dream-story, full of heart and hope and danger. It''s adventure at its finest: a spiked drink, a desert cave, a gunshot, a mother looking for her child. Buckle in: you are headed for a terrific ride."--Deb Olin Unferth, author ofWait Till You See Me Dance

"Behind The Moon is a visceral, full body primal experience; terrifying, seductive, Madison Smart Bell at his best."--A.M. Homes, author ofMay We Be Forgiven

"Behind the Moon is a thrilling and uncannily powerful story by one of the best living American fiction writers. I couldn''t put it down."--John McManus, author ofFox Tooth Heart

"Madison Smartt Bell is one of the great american masters. This book has a pre-religous power, read it and be inspired."--Darcey Steinke, author ofSister Golden Hair: A Novel

"With spare but lyrical prose, Madison Smartt Bell tells a harrowing story with propulsive drama. A haunting and hypnotic read."--Heidi W. Durrow, author ofThe Girl Who Fell From the Sky

"Mr. Bell writes like a scrimshaw''s angel, as he''s been doing, luckily for us, nigh four decades."--George Singleton, author ofCalloustown

"In his latest work, Madison Smartt Bell secures his position as one of the country''s most innovative, inventive and accomplished writers. From the heart-racing opening to the eye-opening end, you won''t be able to put this book down."--Jessica Anya Blau, author ofThe Trouble with Lexie

"This cinematic novel is a rare combination of smart literary novel and compelling page-turner, at once menacing and sweeping, dark and transportive, eloquent and hallucinatory."--Michael Kimball, author ofBig Ray

"Madison Smartt Bell''s new novel renders the many ways in which longing can take form, with both disastrous and redemptive consequences."--Chantel Acevedo, author ofThe Distant Marvels

"This latest from National Book Award finalist Bell (after Zig Zag Wanderer) is the story of an illicit teenage camping trip gone awry. . . . Multiple versions and perspectives are pervasive and illustrate the dream space and the story, culminating in a perfect matchup of beginning and ending."--Starred review,Library Journal

"Bell, bewitching and incandescently imaginative, masterfully parallels Marissa and Jamal''s heart-pounding encounters with mayhem and mystery . . . [a] mind-twisting drama . . ."--Donna Seaman,Booklist

"In Bell''s latest novel, a girl named Julie, fleeing from a violent sexual encounter in the desert, tumbles into a cave and falls into a fever dream inspired by ancient drawings on the cave walls. . . . [A ] powerful, mind-bending work."--Publishers Weekly

"From Bell (The Color of Night, 2011, etc.), a novel about a young woman finding her way back aboveground both literally and metaphorically after a misadventure beneath the surface of things. . . . lyrical, ambitious, and well worth reading."--Kirkus Review

"Behind the Moon is an astounding achievement, to be read with an equally astounding freedom. . . . through and through a magical encounter and a novel of mystery, but then what should one expect being taken there behind the moon, that emblem in the sky of love, of unknown loneliness, and uneasy inaccessibility?"--Linda Chown,Numerocinqmagazine

"Madison Smartt Bell is one of those novelists who slip the net of classification. . . . lately he''s ventured into the American West, forThe Color of Night (2011), a goosepimpler about a former Manson cultist, and for his eerie and peculiar novelBehind the Moon."--Sam Sacks on the "Best New Fiction: Literary thrillers by Madison Smartt Bell and others,"Wall Street Journal

"An early personal favorite, Bell is one of those writers who defies categorization and at times even description, his work somehow managing to track the borderland between experimental mind games and the solid characterization and description of mainstream literary fiction. A synthesis of mind and heart told in a language that matches the subtle virtuosity we''ve come to associate with his work, Bell''s thirteenth novel,Behind the Moon, does nothing to diminish his legacy."--Kurt Baumeister, The Nervous Breakdown

"His novel, or ''fever dream,'' as he dubs it on the title page, riveted me. Bell''s ever-beguiling prose feels richer than ever, and the narrative structure--time past, present, and future in a Western cave; ancient peoples and their descendants--transcends linearity."--The Hudson Review


Author Notes

Madison Smartt Bell was born and raised in Tennessee; he studied at Princeton University and Hollins College. He has taught in a variety of capacities, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, the University of Southern Maine, Goucher College, and as a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Much of his writing, which reflects a concern with race relations, has been critically acclaimed.

Bell was awarded the 1989 Lillian Smith Award for Soldier's Joy. His 1996 historical novel All Soul's Rising was nominated for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. All Soul's Rising, which depicts the slave uprising in Haiti in the late eighteenth century, also led to his selection to the Granta's list of Best Young American Novelists.

His books include The Washington Square Ensemble (1983), Waiting for the End of the World (1985), Straight Cut (1986), The Year of Silence (1987), Zero dB (1987), Soldier's Joy (1989), Barking Man (1990), Doctor Sleep (1991), Save Me, Joe Lewis (1993), and All Soul's Rising (1996). His short stories have been frequently anthologized, including selection for the annual Best American Short Stories for 1984, 1987, 1989, and 1990.

Bell teaches at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Bowker Author Biography) Madison Smartt Bell is the author of eleven previous works of fiction, including All Souls' Rising, which was a National Book Award finalist; Save Me, Joe Louis; Dr. Sleep; Soldier's Joy; and Ten Indians.

He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Bell's latest novel, a girl named Julie, fleeing from a violent sexual encounter in the desert, tumbles into a cave and falls into a fever dream inspired by ancient drawings on the cave walls. The telling of what happens next is shared among the characters. Jamal, the immigrant boy who feels responsible, leads the authorities to Julie's body, then watches over her like a hawk lest the violent Marko, Julie's nemesis, gets too close. Julie lies unresponsive in a hospital bed, somewhere "behind the moon," but the reader participates in her hallucinatory journey, experiencing her turning into a bear, befriending a hawk, walking among the ancients, and becoming her own mother. In the real world, Julie's birth mother, Marissa, on a spiritual journey of her own, begins searching for Julie, forging an alliance with a native shaman named Ultimo. The sections of the book grounded in reality are riveting, drawing the reader swiftly through the story, the author giving no assurance that any of the characters will live to see the last page. Julie's journey through the spirit world is more difficult to follow, alluring but threatening to blur together. Nonetheless, it doesn't diminish this powerful, mind-bending work. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

From Bell (The Color of Night, 2011, etc.), a novel about a young woman finding her way back aboveground both literally and metaphorically after a misadventure beneath the surface of things.Julie ditches school for an overnight motorcycle trip into the badlands with her best friend, a potential love named Jamal, and two untrustworthy toughs. These last two turn out to be wannabe pornographers who have dosed her water with what appears to be LSD, and they chase Julie and Jamal up into the carious moonscape of cliffs and rocks, many of which have extensive graffiti tags ranging from contemporary spray paint to ancient Native American drawings. In her impaired state, Julie tumbles into a narrow and deep cave shaft, and it's almost two days before Jamal can bring help. After she's extricated, the "Cave Girl" spends weeks in a coma, with Jamal at her sideand with one of their assailants lurking menacingly, threatening to silence both of them. Meanwhile, Marissa, who gave her infant daughter up for adoption 17 years earlier, has suffered a shock of her owna priest she worked with and loved dies suddenly of a heart attack. In a susceptible state, Marissa leaves her job and, heeding a mysterious impulse, goes looking for the daughter she abandoned. She quickly finds her in the comatose Cave Girl. In intercut chapters, Julie has embarked on a kind of vision quest inspired by the cave art and the landscape. Marissa and Jamal join forces, and eventuallywith the help of a Native American enforcer/bounty hunter/shaman named Ultimothey head both outward into the badlands and inward into a hallucinatory alternate reality to try to coax Julie back to ordinary reality and those who care about her. Bell is a gifted veteran, and though the more realistic half of this novel is more compelling and affecting than the mystic fever dream, the whole is lyrical, ambitious, and well worth reading. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Bell, acclaimed for his historical Haitian trilogy and such unnerving novels as The Color of Night (2011), has long been fascinated by altered states and mystical forces. In this mind-twisting drama, teens Julie, Karyn, and Jamal, whose family has fled war in the Middle East, skip school and venture out into the Badlands with two older guys. When their partying turns sexually violent, Julie flees, plunges into a cave, and falls into a coma. Soon after, an encounter with a Native American shaman induces social-worker Marissa to search for the daughter she gave up for adoption. Her quest turns perilous as it leads her to Jamal and the hospitalized cave girl. Bell, bewitching and incandescently imaginative, masterfully parallels Marissa and Jamal's heart-pounding encounters with mayhem and mystery with Julie's vivid dream state in which she finds herself in the prehistoric world of cave paintings and mastodon hunts. As he illuminates by firelight and fluorescent lamps the unbroken chain of human cruelty, spirituality, inventiveness, and love, Bell writes, Time was not straight like a spear, but round like the moon. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2017 Booklist


Library Journal Review

This latest from National Book Award finalist Bell (after Zig Zag Wanderer) is the story of an illicit teenage camping trip gone awry. Julie and Karyn are supposed to be having a sleepover but are instead on an adventure with Jamal, Marlo, and Sonny. They are in the desert near a large rock outcropping featuring petroglyphs and a narrow cave opening. Under the influence of a mistakenly ingested drug, Julie escapes the unwanted advances of Marlo by retreating, with Jamal's help, into the relative safety of the cave. The story proceeds through a number of alternative retellings. Woven throughout are dreamlike passages involving Paleolithic peoples and totemic animal spirits. Next we meet Julie's birth mother, Marissa, who has come back to the hospital where Julie was born, coincidentally finding her daughter there in a coma after her ordeal in the desert. The last section focuses on -Marissa's experiences working with -Jamal and a Native American outlaw named -Ultimo to unravel the mystery of the cave. VERDICT Multiple versions and perspectives are pervasive and illustrate the dream space and the story, culminating in a perfect matchup of beginning and ending. Highly recommended for readers who can accept a number of coexisting realities.-Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.