Gateway to the Moon
Do you believe in fortuitous mistakes? I bought this book thinking it was by another author, one I had read and loved. And I adored this book even more than the last. Only when I finished it did I search for the name of that earlier book – and realize my error. Not Mary McGarry Morris, whose A Dangerous Woman I loved. Just plain Mary Morris.
There is nothing ‘just plain’ about either Mary Morris or Gateway to the Moon. It’s one of those parallel story plots, half taking place in the late 1400s and involving travels of the religiously persecuted to the New World, the other half in the late 1990s in a small town in New Mexico where, many generations later, descendants of those immigrants are firmly ensconced.
They are living and believing as good Christians, though doing things like lighting candles on Friday nights, reciting Hebrew prayers at burials, and shunning the eating of pork. They don’t know the why of this, only that these are things they’ve always done.
The connection, of course, is to the Conversos. These were Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity in the 14th and 15th centuries to avoid being tortured and killed for their faith. Many fled to the New World to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Others suffered unspeakable tragedy at home before being forced to leave.
This isn’t a religious book. Religion is the least notable of the characters. Rather, it’s a book about ways of life that take root and linger. It’s about people wanting to understand who they are.
Gateway to the Moon is incredibly well-crafted. The plot moves at a steady pace, no slow-downs in sight – in part because the characters are so well-drawn. Each one is special, with special needs and beliefs. Even Christopher Columbus is portrayed in ways that show him to be the abuser he was.
If I were to find fault, it might be that, while the audiobook reader was amazingly good, I did occasionally struggle to keep straight the many characters. And still, the whole worked. The return to the main voices was well-timed and grounding.
I highly recommend Gateway to the Moon as a unique and captivating read.