Title: The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon
Author: Tom Spanbauer
Length: 368 Pages
Category: Historical, LGBT Fiction
At a Glance: The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon is a book unlike any I’ve read before, and my head was so full of its story when I finished that I couldn’t think of much else for the longest while. Shed describes it as a “crazy story about crazy people told by a crazy”. That is fairly accurate. But it is also a story of strength and love and resilience.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is an American epic of the old West for our own times—a novel huge in its imaginative scope and daring in its themes. The narrator is Shed, or Duivichi-un-Dua, a half-breed bisexual boy who makes his living at the Indian Head Hotel in the little turn-of-the-century town of Excellent, Idaho. The imperious Ida Richilieu is Shed’s employer, the town’s mayor, and the mistress and owner of this outrageously pink whorehouse. Together with the beautiful prostitute Alma Hatch, and the philosophical, green-eyed, half-crazy cowboy Dellwood Barker, this collection of misfits and outcasts make up the core of Shed’s eccentric family. And although laced with the ugliness and cruelty of the frontier West—Shed is raped by the same man who then murders the woman he thinks is his mother, and the Mormon townspeople bring a fiery end to Ida’s raucous way of life—the love and acceptance that tie this family together provide the true heart of this novel.
Review: “What’s a human being without a story?”
Author Tom Spanbauer’s storytelling is delivered in a method he calls “dangerous writing”. His brand of prose—plain-spoken and evocative, personal and sensual, forcing readers to face things we may not wish to see—places the inscape in direct communion with the story’s landscape. It is the act of looking people in the eye, because to look into someone else’s eyes situates us all on a human level, making it difficult, if not impossible, not to commiserate. In the case of The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon, the gaze of its narrator, Out-In-The-Shed—Shed for short—aims directly into his readers’ eyes, into the imagination and kindred minds of those who accompany him on this journey. We are not passive observers of his story. Shed invokes and provokes empathy and passion, sorrows and all the active things inside us that encompass imagination and sex and what it means to be a part of something greater than ourselves, but to also be at one with who we are. Our human-being stories.
Shed believes that through our experiences and in their sharing, we each become our own story. His own begins as an invitation to join him—as long as we’re not the devil—to act as cohort and confidante as he regales us with an extraordinary tale of becoming—becoming real, becoming human, becoming someone and everyone at the same time. His is a tale of not knowing how to be, because he does not know the meaning of his true name, Duivichi-un-Dua. How can a man be if he doesn’t know who he is?
“By telling your story, the knowledge you have will become understanding, and that—knowledge becoming understanding—is better than anything there is to feel.”
Shed’s story ends how it begins—“If you’re the devil, then it’s not me telling the story.”—and it is not an easy one to follow at times. He straddles two worlds and yet belongs fully to neither. Things happen to him rather than him being their motivation. The late 19th and early 20th centuries provide the canvas for a bald-faced portrait of racism, prejudice, and an egregious history of erasure of the tribes and tribal customs by the white man, the white government, and the arrogance of the white missionaries who, with their dogmatic ideologies and self-proclaimed pure Christian values, only wished to civilize the savages and purge their otherness. Told in retrospect, his tale includes some of Shed’s earliest memories: how he was orphaned at the age of ten or eleven; how, at the age of twelve, he became a whore, same as his mother. How we was born two-spirited, a Berdache, “a holy man who fucks with men”, servicing those who crave something the women can’t give them…out in the shed behind the Indian Head Hotel.
“The only me I know is not me. I must have been born that way, and so far living hasn’t helped out any.”
We follow Shed and the people who are his found and chosen and bawdy family: Ida Richilieu, Alma Hatch, and Dellwood Barker—the man Shed loves the most ever, the man who fell in love with the moon—through the death of Shed’s mother, Princess; through a war with the Mormons in the small town of Excellent, Idaho; through Shed’s journey to discover who he is; through loss and the discovery of truths and untruths; through his beautiful human-being story.
“The only thing that keeps us from floating off with the wind is our stories. They give us a name and put us in a place, allow us to keep on touching.”
The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon is a book unlike any I’ve read before, and my head was so full of its story when I finished that I couldn’t think of much else for the longest while. Fair warning, though: it isn’t always an easy read. Shed describes it as a crazy story about crazy people told by a crazy. That is fairly accurate. But it is also a story of strength and love and resilience. It is a story filled with a magical sort of realism and spiritualism that mingles with all manner of human trials and tribulations. It is a story about speaking truths out loud because sometimes silence is the sound of fear.
You can buy The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon here (Not Available in E-format):
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