Reviewed by Grace Kabliska
Carolina Moonset by Matt Goldman explores familial relationships and what it is to watch a father succumb to dementia. Add murder and romance to the mix, and readers are bound to have an enjoyable experience. Clever writing paired with the suspense of uncovering the secrets of the past make this book impossible to put down.
The story’s protagonist, Joey, takes a trip back home to Beaufort, South Carolina to help care for his father, Marshall, who has Lewy Body Dementia. Early in the visit, Joey’s mother decides to take a well-deserved vacation and heads to Florida for a pickleball competition, leaving Joey to spend a few days of quality time with his father. While she is away, Joey learns concerning details about his father’s past. At the same time, he starts to develop feelings for a woman in town named Leela. Their relationship moves forward quickly when Joey’s father is marked as a suspect for murder, and Leela helps Joey work to clear his name.
Determination, strategy, and mild connivery allow Leela and Joey to find key information about the case. Along with the help of several allies, they devise a plan to ensure Marshall’s innocence. Each character along the way from ally to antagonist is well-rounded and interesting which creates a network of fascinating side stories and detailed characterization to go along with the fast-paced main plot.
Readers will fall in love with the relationships in this story, both familial and romantic. The first chapter sets the scene of what Joey’s family is like, and it is impossible not to root for them. His father’s love for his mother is one trait that he will never forget. Joey and Leela’s relationship also takes center stage, and the continual banter and support the two of them share paints a beautiful picture of romance in the modern era.
Goldman asks readers to consider what the truth is and how to expose those moments of deceit. When Joey is considering his relationship with Leela, he thinks of truth like a tangible object that seems so obvious he could never imagine it fading from his mind. “Life has its moments of truth. Pillars that rise from an otherwise flat landscape. You can see them. Touch them. And no matter which way you turn, you can look back and know they are still there” (140). On the other hand, truth can also be deceiving. “Secrets stay secret long enough, the lies they protect turn into truths” (174). What happens when a lie becomes the truth, and what happens when new information comes to the surface about that false truth?
From page one, Carolina Moonset will trap the reader’s attention and refuse to let go until the final resolution. The seriousness of the situation is broken up by sprinkles of humor and lightness throughout, creating a pace that gives readers the chance to come up for a brief breath of air
before plunging back into the mystery and intrigue of Joey rediscovering the past to save his father’s present.