2013, 240 pages
Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes is the story of Katherine, a mother in Belfast on the cusp of The Troubles in 1969, whose frightening experience swimming in the sea triggers memories of incidents which remain below the surface of her marriage. Sounds simple, but Forbes’s prose is like a masterful painting – you may respond to its beauty at first, but the longer you look the more you discover.
“It was as though the weather could not stop itself. Rain fell from a liquid sky like pellets of broken silver, battering against the buildings and the pavements, falling so suddenly and heavily that the earth did not have time to drink it in. Water spilled off the streets and the gardens, running in long furious ropes into the rivers and the sea. As Katherine closed the door of the church hall behind her, the rain hammered on it as though it wanted to get in.”
This scene opens a chapter where emotional tension thickens and bursts. The rainstorm sets the psychological tone, as Katherine feels progressively worse about an untenable situation and makes a rash, impactful decision. Passages portraying long marriage are profound and lovely and make a hero of solid, dependable George and his quiet love. Ditto the chapters about motherhood. Even when the story’s progress seems recognizable, Forbes’s exquisite writing keeps Ghost Moth fresh and moving. This is a terrific novel, and like everything I’ve read from Bellevue Literary Press, it’s one that will stay with me.