I’ve shared several Bellevue Literary Press books with bookconscious readers (many of which I’ve heard about because of the talented Molly Mikolowski, one of the best publicists in the industry) — Tinkers, The Sojourn, Understories, The Polish Boxer – and I’ve loved them all. BLP brings readers amazing books that defy easy categorization or mass marketing. If you want a good read, many publishers can offer that. If you want an amazing, transformative read that will settle down in your memory and open a dialogue with the best books you’ve read, a book that will challenge you to new levels of emotional and intellectual perception, a reading experience that might blow your heart open or change your worldview, go to the Bellevue Literary Press website and pick any book.
For example, Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes. This lovely book sounds slighter than it is: the story of Katherine, a mother in Belfast on the cusp of The Troubles in 1969, who has a frightening experience while swimming in the sea which triggers memories of the summer twenty years earlier when she got engaged and incidents which remain just below the surface of her marriage.
Straightforward in lesser hands, but Forbes’ prose is like a masterful painting you see at a museum: at first glance you may respond to the beauty, the color and texture, composition and themes. But the longer you look the more you realize the artwork is powerful, it’s both contained and expansive, incredible in and of itself, but also able to impact the way you feel, the way you view this work and everything else you see in the museum.
That’s what this novel, like other books I’ve read from BLP, does. Here’s a paragraph that shows what I mean:
“How heavily it rained. It was as though the weather could not stop itself. Rain fell from a liquid sky like pellets of broken silver, battering against the buildings and the pavements, falling so suddenly and heavily that the earth did not have time to drink it in. Water spilled off the streets and the gardens, running in long furious ropes into the rivers and the sea. As Katherine closed the door of the church hall behind her, the rain hammered on it as though it wanted to get it.”
By itself, evocative, even muscular prose, this paragraph opens a chapter in which emotional tension thickens and bursts. The rainstorm sets the scene and also the psychological tone, as Katherine feels worse and worse about an untenable situation she has found herself in and finally, makes a rash, impactful decision.
I could quote many other passages. The sections which portray long marriage are profound and lovely and make a hero of solid, dependable George and his kind of quiet love. Ditto the chapters about motherhood. There are taut, indelible scenes — children provoking each other with dares, the firebombing of a Catholic shop, and a school swim class, to name a few — which read as if burned into memory.
Even towards the end, when readers may feel as if the story’s progress is chugging down a familiar track to a destination that’s vaguely recognizable, Forbes’ exquisite writing keeps Ghost Moth fresh and moving. This is a terrific novel, and like everything I’ve read from Bellevue Literary Press, it’s one that will stay with me.