In The Pull of the Moon, Nan does something that I imagine most of us have dreamed of doing at one time or other in our lives: she leaves her old life behind, embarking on a road trip of self-discovery.
I enjoyed this novel very much. On one level, Nan’s journey has all the elements of “too good to be true”. For one thing, she’s lucky enough to have enough money to go on this trip, to be able to drive where she wants, stay where she wants, eat what she wants, for as long as she wants. But when one looks beyond the premise, deep into the heart of the novel, one finds something that sings in its authenticity.
Nan is not running away; she’s running toward, toward a place where “My mind was in my heart, anchored like a bright kite in a safe place.” Parts of the novel are laugh-out-loud funny; other scenes are particularly poignant.
Berg captures that sense of loss of self using the smallest things, things we wouldn’t normally even think about:
When I got to the grocery store, the oddest thing happened. I found it very, very difficult to buy anything. I would pick something up, then think, no, it’s Ruthie who really likes pineapple. No, Martin is the one who loves London broil. I wanted to get something special, a real treat, something I liked to cook and liked even more to eat, but everything I picked up, I put back. Finally, I leaned against the dairy case and thought, well, come on, Nan, what do YOU really, really like? And then I thought, my God, I don’t know. I’ve forgotten.
We get to follow along as Nan begins to rediscover her own perspective on life, a woman-centered perspective that touches on so many familiar things. She describes being fifty as
an impossible age in many ways. Not old. Not young. Not old, no. But oh, not young. What it is, is being in the sticky middle, setting one gigantic thing aside in order to make room for the next gigantic thing, and in between, feeling the rush of air down the unprotected back of the neck.
Nan’s physical journey may not be particularly realistic; after all, who among us could really take such a road trip, with no destination in mind other than coming to a much-needed self-understanding? But it doesn’t matter. Nan takes the journey for us as well as for herself; through her we are able to do what our particular personal resources might prevent us from doing.
As Nan says after finding herself unable to resist buying a pink biker’s sleeveless T-shirt, “Do you want this? life seems to be saying. Is this what you want? Well, take it, then. What do you think it’s here for?” And the rest of the book explores how she comes to fully embrace what life is telling her.
This was not a favorite book for me. I remember having a lot of those feelings, but I remember being told that the 50s are the best years of your life so I tried to make them that. They are the years when your children are old enough to allow you more time for yourself and you finally have a few pennies to do a few more things that you want to do. Guess I just got lucky that my 'period' of unrest was short lived. Not a book that I would recommend. I bought it because a worker at the store recommended it to me. Guess her tastes are different than mine.