Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh

Welcome to the second day of...

For today, I bring to you a review for the debut effort by Mz. Therese Walsh:

Title: The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Author: Therese Walsh

Pages: 292

Received From: author


Moira Leahy struggled growing up in her prodigious twin’s shadow; Maeve was always more talented, more daring, more fun. In the autumn of the girls’ sixteenth year, a secret love tempted Moira, allowing her to have her own taste of adventure, but it also damaged the intimate, intuitive relationship she’d always shared with her sister. Though Moira’s adolescent struggles came to a tragic end nearly a decade ago, her brief flirtation with independence will haunt her sister for years to come.

When Maeve Leahy lost her twin, she left home and buried her fun-loving spirit to become a workaholic professor of languages at a small college in upstate New York. She lives a solitary life now, controlling what she can and ignoring the rest—the recurring nightmares, hallucinations about a child with red hair, the unquiet sounds in her mind, her reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t help that her mother avoids her, her best friend questions her sanity, and her not-quite boyfriend has left the country. But at least her life is ordered. Exactly how she wants it.

Until one night at an auction when Maeve wins a keris, a Javanese dagger that reminds her of her lost youth, and happier days playing pirates with Moira in their father’s boat. Days later, a book on weaponry is nailed to her office door, followed by anonymous notes, including one that invites her to Rome to learn more about the blade and its legendary properties. Opening her heart and mind to possibility, Maeve accepts the invitation, and with it, a window into her past. Ultimately she will revisit the tragic November night that shaped her and Moira’s destinies, and learn that nothing can be taken at face value, as one sister emerges whole and the other’s score is finally settled.

Confession time: I'm a twin and, despite all the energy my sister and I put into convincing the world all those twin stereotypes are really, really is different then having a normal sibling. I won't say the "bond is stronger" blah blah blah, because anyone who's seen Supernatural knows that's bullshit, but it's defintly special. So when I read the blurb for Moira Leahy, I was prepared to rant my ass off about all the horrible stereotypes injected into the story and how twins most certainly do not have any supernatural connections of any sort. But I find myself at a loss. Because, despite having much of the "twin stereotypes" I've hated my entire life...Moira Leahy was just so damn good I can't even force myself to rant (which is, as you all know, very, very rare)

Maeve Leahy is 25 years old, working as a language professor while still dealing with the loss of her twin, Moira, nine years ago. Her life is brimming on shambles; barely speaks to her parents, can't consider any sort of future with her Best Friend (Who May Be Something More) Noel, and can't even play the music that was once her reason for living. She is frozen in the past, unable to deal with her grief. But one day, while visiting an auction house, she sees a dagger that reminds her of the one she and Moira used to play pirates with. It's called a Javanese Keris.

Now, I know what your all thinking: grief-stricken women happens to wander in to an auction house, happens to find a dagger that is oh-so much like the one her and her dead sister used to play with, and she happens to buy it and--wowza! It's magic! Pretty predictable, right? Oh, no no no. Very, very wrong. Let's continue:

Once she has the Keris, odd things start happening; a book on the dagger is left in her office, notes with the word "Eling" (Javanese for "remember") appearing wherever she goes, and an invitation urging her to visit a man in Rome who may know more about the Keris. And, most importantly, the barriers she has built begin to crack, making way for the carefully hidden memories of Moira.

The story alternates between the present, first person narration and an omniescent third person past (in the POV of Moira). We see her present situation, while also getting to know Moira through flashbacks that span from childhood to the positively tragic end during the teenage years. We can also catch a glimpse at Moira and Maeve's close relationship (they made a secret language, dontchaknow). They are very different, though, a fact which the girl's mother is constantly trying to remind them of. Which, at first, seems a logical action...except it's not. In fact, it proves to be much more damaging then if the girls had been treated as the same person.

Maeve herself kind of strikes me as that creepy chick who lurkes the hallways at school that no one really knows and, to be honest, no one wants to know. The melancholy atmosphere and sense of dread Maeve's first person is at times in complete contrast to her sister's almost whimsical past narrations. Noel, the Love Interest, is a bit tiresome--the kind of character that often befalls "women's fiction". You know, perfect. Sexy, artistic, sensitive, strong, patient, sexy, sweet, sexy, sexy and really, really sexy. I know this is kind of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but the only flaw this guy had didn't even really count as a flaw. It was just...a thing. I was kind of hoping the schmuck would just get up and reveal he had webbed toes or something.

I will admit the last third of the book made me kind of forget I had a life to attend to, it was so damn gripping. I was in luv with Walsh's scenery--especially in ROME! she made Rome sound so PRETTY!--and, while I wish the first third was NEARLY as engaging and purdy as the remaining hundred or so pages, there's no denying Moira Leahy was just a nice book.

HOWEVER, one of the main issues I had with Moira Leahy was not the message it was trying to convey, but just how many messages and elements there were. Family!Issues, Airing!Of!Grievences!, Musical!Prote!Gy!, dead!twins! Suspense!Mystery!Romance, but wait! also with Supernatural!Twist! and ZOMG SWEET SENSITIVE MAN TOY with MOMMA ISSUES! and a CRAZYASS VILLAIN! and DID I MENTION DEAD TWINS?

This sounds like a lot, I know. Sometimes it was a lot. But there is something so...dare I say...magical about Walsh's writing. Some kind of graceful X factor that tied everything together like that sad little tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas (ya know, when everyone gets together and fixes it up all pretty? And that turns out to be the true meaning of Christmas? It's a classic, people). Walsh has this undeniable storytelling ability that's so very rare to come by and I personally thought it came out to make a very lovely book.

A richly defined tale about family and self-discovery (which, even to me, sounds too much like a bad dramedy starring the dreaded Drew Barrymore), The Last Will of Moira Leahy so rarely misses the spot that it might just make my Best Of list for 09 (or at least my Prettiest of 09. Cover art? A+)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Also: I lurv the first page, in which Maeve basically introduces herself and--most importantly--Moira=

I lost my twin to a harsh November nine years ago. Ever since, I’ve felt the span of that month like no other, as if each of the calendar’s thirty perfect little squares split in two on the page.

(you can read more excerpts at Walsh's website)


Ana said...

wasn't it Goooooooooood?

: D

I love the cover as well, maybe my favourite cover of the year!

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