Would you know your child if she suddenly reappeared after a thirty-year absence? Would you be willing to go to the ends of the earth to save her, putting your own life at risk in the process? Could you open your heart after it was welded shut in the face of hopelessness and despair? The Seventh Moon poses these questions, and others. And, while it's not a romance, there are very strong romantic elements in the story too: love thrown away, and love denied but insistent, refusing to be ignored.
In December 1941, young Francine Lawrence must leave the mountains of Malaya, where her husband manages a tin mine, and take their four-year-old daughter Ruth to Singapore, to escape the advancing Japanese invasion. Things are little improved there, however, as the enemy closes in. Tossed out of her hotel because of her Eurasian background, Francine must rely on the aid of a dashing and resourceful British officer, Clive Napier, to find shelter and sustenance for herself and Ruth.
The trio takes to the sea, hoping to find safety, but a violent storm blows them off course. When they land on Borneo, friendly islanders tell them the Japanese are sweeping the area. Francine is faced with a mother's nightmare. Should she leave a weakened Ruth behind, in the hope that the islanders will take care of her, or drag the child along, practically dooming all of them? The decision rips her heart apart, but she makes the only choice she can.
Fast forward to 1970. Now a successful businesswoman, Francine receives word that a woman has appeared, claiming to be Ruth. Having spent ten years after the war turning over every stone on Borneo to find her daughter, Francine is convinced that the girl died shortly after they were parted. There is no way that this woman, who calls herself Sakura Ueda, could be her daughter. And yet something about Sakura breathes a thread of hope in Francine's heart. It's just possible she's telling the truth. The journey to discover that truth is fraught with danger, physical and emotional, but Francine must undertake it, opening doors she thought she'd sealed shut years ago.
Is Sakura Ruth? That's only the central question in this book, but there are many others, and getting to them was a riveting experience for me, for a number of reasons. The first, and most important, is that the author made me care about all the characters. Francine, metamorphosing from a naive girl into a hard-steel survivor; Clive, the savior she abandons because he reminds her too painfully of the past; Clay Munro, the private investigator she hires, whose soul has been shaped in a different war; and finally Sakura, an ill and desperate young woman who comes to Francine not because she wants to but because she must. All are fully realized in their weaknesses and amazing strengths, coming together in ways none of them could have foreseen.
The settings are accurately, brutally depicted: bombings and fires, the death and destruction that goes with war, the sudden violence of a storm at sea, the lush and dangerous beauty of a jungle, the stark threat of a cold city. The plot gets a little convoluted and the book threatens to veer off into a more conventional thriller/adventure in the last half, yet the author always manages to come back to the central point. No matter the dangers they face, these characters will be able to work past their difficulties with the help of the love they have for one another.
If you're tired of cowboys and babies and too-stupid-to-live heroines, you might want to pick this book up; if the price tag gives you pause, you can always try the library. The Seventh Moon will introduce you to some compelling characters. It's a well-done example of the adage that love is everywhere - you just have to know to look for it.
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