Mt. Moriah's Wake

A Novel

Fiction - Womens
320 Pages
Reviewed on 02/24/2021
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Author Biography

A native southerner, Melissa Norton Carro has over twenty years of experience in marketing and communications, including her own business, Norton Carro Communications. She has edited textbooks and been a non-fiction ghostwriter, as well as a regular copyeditor for Gannett Publishing. She received her Bachelor of Arts, with Honors, from Vanderbilt University, where she currently works. Carro was a closet fiction writer for years while raising three daughters, and Mt. Moriah’s Wake is her first novel. She writes a weekly blog, In the Middle, about life in the sandwich generation and is currently working on another novel, Bagels at Nine. She lives in Nashville with her husband and blue heeler mutt.

    Book Review

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.

Romuald Dzemo

Mt. Moriah’s Wake: A Novel by Melissa Norton Carro is a heartwarming story that follows JoAnna Wilson, who grew up as an orphan under the care of her aunt. JoAnna left Mt. Moriah for Chicago after the murder of Grace, her best friend. Now married and looking forward to a career as a writer, she travels back home to Mt. Moriah for her aunt’s funeral. Coming back home after four years is an experience that connects her with her past and the people she has loved. Follow her on this journey as she navigates a world of grief, loss, and love.

This is a novel that is beautifully written and while it is not explosive with action, it is filled with realism and humanity that will immediately rub off on readers. The story is about love, faith, and the experience of loss. The protagonist is an ordinary woman who must face the challenges of life, question her faith, and work on her marriage. Her encounter with friends and her significant other are natural and readers can feel as though they are part of the world the author has created. The first-person narrative voice is gripping and it allows the story to flow gracefully through the voice of the protagonist. Mt. Moriah’s Wake: A Novel is a gem, a story that reminds me of those moments of pain and loss in my own life, of my quest to be more humanly and deeply connected with those I love. The prose leaps off the pages with rare beauty and Melissa Norton Carro has a unique skill for making readers feel the pulse of her characters. It is a story that is written from the heart.

Lorraine Cobcroft

JoAnna Wilson is an orphan. After her parents died in a car accident, when she was very young, an eccentric aunt took her in. She enjoyed what seems an idyllic childhood, living in her aunt’s country inn in Mt Moriah. Grace was her best friend ... the kind of best friend every child should have. Together, they made a million joyful memories. But when Grace went hiking, tragedy struck. An aspiring writer, JoAnna finds work as an editor in Chicago, but all is not well. JoAnna is keeping a secret, and it is tearing her apart. Returning to Mt Moriah for her aunt’s funeral forces JoAnna to confront her past, and to decide her future.

Mt Moriah’s Wake is Melissa Norton Carro’s first novel. I can’t wait to read her next! I couldn’t put this book down, though toward the end I struggled to see through my tears. Carro took me into another world and made me walk in JoAnna’s shoes, live her experiences, and keenly feel her pains. Carro makes magnificent word pictures. Her descriptions of Chicago and of Mt Moriah bring places to life and make you feel you were right there, seeing it all firsthand. She builds beautiful characters who leap out of the pages to form intimate friendships with the reader. Her characters show us the true meaning of deep and abiding love. She paints Mt Moriah as a place we would all love to live, and Doro and Maddy as folks we can’t help but adore.

The story moves between scenes of restful beauty and scenes of powerful emotion, with occasional touches of delightful humor. It ends with a strong message of faith that I suspect would surely influence even the most determined non-believers. But I am certain even readers who cannot share Carro’s faith could not fail to love her characters and thoroughly enjoy a great story, brilliantly told. I have no hesitation in giving Melissa Norton Carro’s delightful novel, Mt Moriah’s Wake, the highest recommendation. It is classic women’s fiction at its very best. (It’s women’s fiction but I suspect even men who don’t appreciate the genre will enjoy it.) I have added Melissa Carro’s name to my list of favorite authors. Mt Moriah’s Wake is a novel I would not hesitate to read again.