Reviewed by Trix Lee for Readers' Favorite
Mt. Moriah’s Wake by Melissa Norton Carro is a gripping tale about JoAnna Wilson, an aspiring writer from the countryside, and her inner struggles to reconcile her unspeakable past with the possibilities of the future. Jo, as her family and close friends lovingly call her, was orphaned at a young age and it was her Aunt Doro who raised her. Following the murder of her best friend, Grace, Jo moved to the big city. Carrying the weight of her mysterious past, Jo tried her best to start a new life. Now in her mid-twenties, with her dreams of being a writer seemingly permanently stalled, with her marriage teetering in the balance, with her self-identity in question, and with her ever-present guilt, Jo had to return to Mt. Moriah. This time, it would be for her Aunt Doro’s funeral. This time, Jo would have to face everything that she had been running away from — the guilt, the sorrow, the mourning, the memories. This time, Jo would have to make peace with the past, find out who she truly is, and decide the path for her future.
Mt. Moriah’s Wake is phenomenal. There are no other words to describe such a rich and well-crafted story. I enjoyed the way the narration alternated with Jo’s childhood, her life in the big city, and the present, giving us the context and building up to that startling denouement. I especially love the glorious one-liners that made me think about how powerful words could be when used by a great wordsmith. And Melissa Norton Carro is a great wordsmith. Her characters were written wonderfully, with all of their flaws and questionable decisions and misguided actions so that I felt like I knew them personally. I felt like I knew Aunt Doro, with her larger-than-life existence and unconditional albeit sometimes misguided love. I felt like I knew Maddy and his steadfast nature and unwavering faith; Grace, with her compassion that extends to friends and strangers alike; and Tom, with his gentleness and optimism and his very human reaction when he gets hurt. I felt like I knew Jo, with her insecurities and self-doubts and her struggles with her self-identity, fear, and loss of faith. A lot of times, I wept with them and a lot of times, I wept for them.
Mt. Moriah’s Wake is a thought-provoking and emotional story about life and everything that comes with it, the good and the bad and the ugly. There may be numerous references to God but trust me when I say that this is not a religious story nor is this a story about religion. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Just make sure to keep a pack of tissues nearby for when the narrative goes from somber to heart-rending. I certainly needed them.