It’s easier to track the rising sun that it is to trace the path of the Earth’s moon. This wonderful truth serves as a fitting backdrop to Alice Early’s debut novel, The Moon Always Rising.
Science shows us that the moon is always in the sky regardless of its visibility to the human eye. Early uses this science to move beyond the exterior, the lush Caribbean island of Nevis, and into the emotional turmoil of her protagonist, Eleanor ‘Els’ Gordon. We see the world through Els eyes. It’s anything but lush. And, Early’s cast of richly-developed characters inform our view of Els’ tough skin.
Early harnesses the moon metaphor throughout her story by calling on tropical cultures filled with folklore and superstition. In these, the moon represents a person’s emotional core. Its rising is believed to be an indicator of how others see you. Early summons this magic of the moon to light Els way through her dark journey, while inviting us to see the influence of the mystical that is also at work in our lives.
This may be a stretch for some readers when we travel with Els whose first trip to Nevis is as a tourist. When she decides to move there permanently and after her family’s estate in the Scottish Highlands is ruined, the stakes increase. The moon rises, indeed, as we slide into Els angry, inner world and explore layers of messiness in love and loss.
What separates this story from others is Early’s unabashed mix of genres. She is determined to show the cosmic forces of nature rallying together, exercising their influence. What’s more, Early combines elements from literary fiction, women’s literature and the paranormal. Her storyline blends a cast of characters, a creative style, and a ghost named Jack. Together, they lift us like stormy waves in Els rocky life.
As readers, we wait to see if she can find the courage to forgive herself and the others in her life who have wronged her. She must summon the strength to move past the physical, emotional and spiritual barriers that hold us hostage.
For example, in the opening chapters when Els experiences the loss of her father and her childhood love, everything is unmoored. She feels lost, angry and knows she is in unchartered waters. By running from the world, she builds a new one – filled with hope and redemption that comes in unexpected ways. As she develops relationships in the small plantation house with a haunting history, she learns to swim through her loss and grief – to break free and to embrace the rising moon.
It’s easy to see why Alice Early’s first novel about second chances and the power of redemption is both compelling and personal. Her professional life as a college dean, executive recruiter and career coach centers on helping people to let go of things that no longer work. “I’ve come to believe that healing and progress in life usually require forgiveness of someone for something.” She adds, “When this happens, the world opens for us.”
Even more than this, we also see how much of Early is embedded in Els’ search for life and her sense of community and wellbeing. “I’m a nester and a homebody who craves connection and community. Like [Els], at one time I buried my loneliness and emotional isolation in work. She puts her ambitions ahead of love until she loses everything she loves most.
Early says Els experience happens to many smart, capable women who also find themselves fending off unwanted sexual advances in male-dominated careers. It erodes their sense of self and a willingness to be vulnerable and open to love. For Early, who found a way to transition to a career in writing, we see through her career change and Els’s character, that she too can, “breathe in scents of this land – the sea, the gardenia, the damp earth in its endless cycle of fertility, something always blooming, something always, dying… In the moonlight, the [gardenia] petals gleamed like silver.”
Alice enjoys her Martha’s Vineyard community and singing. She is passionate about sustainability and women’s rights and voices. Also an avid cook, she nurtures friendships and shares her penchant for gluten-free baking with neighbors. Alice and her husband have visited Nevis annually since 1996 and share a hand-built life in view of the sea. Visit her at www.aliceearly.com