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3 stars out of 5: A well-meaning book with its heart in the right place, but with some tragic missteps in execution that will deter some audiences. Readers who are already sympathetic to the subject-matter may find the book an emotionally gratifying experience. But audiences needing a more nuanced view of the characters or more tension in the plot will have a hard time finishing “Moonlight on the Nantahala” due to poorly realized characters and a lack of conflict.
“Moonlight on the Nantahala” is a novel by Micheal Rivers which follows the friendship between an elderly widower and a young woman trapped in a troubled marriage. Edward Caulfield is eighty-six-year-old man still grieving the loss of his wife. Though Edward’s wife, Celia, died as a young woman in the early years of their marriage, Edward is nonetheless devoted to his memories of their time together. He spends much of his time walking the paths through the mountains on his property, searching for the ghost rumored to dance in the moonlight in the exact location where Edward proposed to his bride all those years ago.
But in his wanderings, Edward instead encounters Lena, a former debutante desperately trying to escape her society life, a greedy philandering husband, and her rich but callous parents. Edward senses Lena’s suffering and converses with her about her life and his own in an effort to find peace of mind for both of them. Lena comes to understand Edward’s deep love for his wife, and the anguish he has endured in the years since her death. But as Lena’s life begins to fall apart around her, she and Edward are both forced to confront the consequences of choices they made long ago.