17 thoughts on “Blood Moon – Melanie Tem

  1. 1

    “None of that mattered. The little face in the photograph was demanding her attention.”

    Extraordinarily, I start this initially engaging novel after reading earlier today Steve Rasnic Tem’s ‘Photograph’ (here) and after my also wild extrapolating the staking of claims with photographs with another SRT work (here). Literally both stories read and reviews written just before starting to read this novel for the first time! The photographs in Blood Moon concern a woman’s adoption of Greg when inspecting a photo of him, and he having earlier seen a photo of her as a potential mother. And, then, there is his backstory…
    And when I said ‘extraordinarily’ above, I meant it! Scry the synchronicity.

    “He waited a boy’s eternity—fifteen, twenty minutes, half an hour.”

  2. 2 & 3

    “The older he got the worse it was, the more he saw that the world at large was in a mess from which it would never recover,…”

    About my age, Andy, with a lifetime of headaches pent up as in unopenable cupboards. Thinks of his daughter Breanne adopting Greg… his new ‘grandson’. Then we are placed in Greg’s head as a smaller child in painfully retrieved backstory. Some of the strongest stuff I have ever read about child abuse from the point of view of the child.

  3. 4 & 5

    “She listened, smiling, to her father’s terse, impatient explanations of economic theory to Greg, whose questions were almost total non sequiturs.”

    There’s a definite power here I sense, one that is so powerful it ever escapes my grasp – so far. The emotions of Breanne, of her father Andy, of Greg her adopted son and his memory of his own father and the latent presence of his mother. Andy worries, amid his headaches, worries, like me, about the world and its troubles. A world about to explode. There is so much going on here, outside and inside of various heads, much of it inchoate, perhaps inchoate forever, with no hope of resolution, so much so that my own head feels fit to burst.

    “The room was filled with strange, thick shadows cast by the red blanket over the lamp, and when he put his hand on it the flesh was red, too, the bones black.”

  4. 6

    “…and unlocked his bike from the porch railing with such force that the wrought iron sang.”

    And the sky sang, too, with a more frightful song of yellow tornado or atom bomb. The latter alternative reminds me of my own fears as a child in the fifties onward, embracing nuclear storms as the coming sleepover with our old friend Death. Not that anyone had heard of sleepovers then, and Greg — amid such contemporaneous angst as we learn of his school life then, ever on some brink of his past-induced anger — has mixed feelings about his school friends, but he tries hard, amid his crush for a woman teacher… and his image of security, beyond anger’s danger, in the concepts of home and mother, when dangers ensue. But which home, which mother?

  5. 7

    “There will be an eclipse,” Andy corrected him. “We just may not be able to see it.”

    Greg is 12. Squints through gaps in bathroom handle as Breanne baths, later gaps in clouds, to squint for moon’s (de)tumescence…
    The accretion in boy’s emotions of jealousy and lust, and later naive or clumsy thoughts of old man Andy ‘babysitting’ the boy, with equal ironic tuning or untuning of thoughts, individual complexities amid a universe’s expanding or shrinking gestalt…

    “It takes seven minutes for the light of the sun to get here. How long does it take for anger to get where it’s going, old man?”

    How long does it take a boy’s blood to reach his moon, I ask? Blood moon.

  6. 8

    “There were too many of them; they were crowded and crooked, and the plastic sheet over them had fat rows of air bubbles.”

    Seems appropriate that my initial image in this review of photographs is now the trigger for a dreadful éclat between mother and adopted son, the boy who can make eclipses himself, more cosmic than mere camera flashes or other sudden exposures, I guess. Not self-pleasuring so much as self-rage?

  7. 9

    “She herself found C. S. Lewis a little precious and pompous and more than a little sexist, but she was willing to read for the sheer pleasure of the language, for the beauty of the children’s adventures…”

    I have always found it strange that the name C.S. Lewis coincidentally rhymes perfectly with that of D.F. Lewis. Though, I draw the line at sexism! Breanne reads Narnia books to Greg, and by default to her father Andy, too. There is something very Christmassy, very family-like. Yet we are also drawn effectively into the two males’ heads as points of view, in addition to Breanne’s. The power to visualise faces in the fire. The pareidolia of cause and effect? This work causes an effect in me as it ineluctably unfolds.

    “…and Greg found himself thinking a grownup word: Coincidence.”

  8. 10 & 11

    “He pushed at her face in his mind. It fell to pieces and then put itself together again.”

    There is something that somehow makes you telekinetic when reading this book. As if you can control what happens…and perhaps you do. Looking ahead in it may spoil your chances of doing so, though.

    “Greg stopped to watch a crane lift something to the top of a building. He stared so long at the bright-orange crane and the black building ribs and the blue sky…”

  9. 12 & 13


    A single word followed by a full stop, not a hard return nor a stroke. Not a pregnant pause, but a prägnant sentence. As Breanne is told this curtly, and she tells Greg and Andy equally curtly. ‘We are going to have a baby’, a later afterthought. This continues to be strong stuff, and I imagine – as with much of the Tems’ work I have been recently discovering – worthy of far wider attention than perhaps it has received in the past. Meanwhile, with me chiming along with old Andy —

    “The world was in a mess. Not that it affected him personally, but he liked to keep informed.”

  10. 14

    “It’s hard to stay oriented when the words you hear yourself speaking aren’t the words you had in your head.”

    I know the verbal aphasia affects of Stroke, hearing it in my mother in law for several years. Andy’s name phasia, Breanne’s ‘starfish’ exudation or not, Greg’s going missing or not, “The situation bears watching,…”

  11. Possible spoilers

    15 & 16

    “Breanne wondered whether doctors, like everyone else, could have perfectly coherent middle-of-the-night conversations of which they didn’t remember a word.”

    ‘Red pain.’
    Many other women will know it, too. Sadly, cathartically. Knocks the stuffing out of them,
    One ‘child’ 9 months stayed with her, another inchoate ‘child’ 4 months, but both now gone?
    ‘Childs’ in cahoots with each other by telekinesis?
    Her father’s words, too. Flowed out wrong? Or not. Inchoate, too.
    Meanwhile, we’re now inside Greg’s head, watching the black dude in the orange stocking cap on the public transport, and then the Social Service office with orange chairs, transporting a catharsis with cushions via the social care worker woman we met before. An exorcism like a real, if miscarried, miscarriage? Strong dark-literary stuff, with strong stuffing, too. What comes out, comes out, what doesn’t, doesn’t.

  12. 17 & 18

    “Maybe he would be a doctor when he grew up. Maybe he would be a writer, naming things, breaking them apart into words.”

    Alien corn in poems, tulip head of a baby, we reach some sort of understanding with this book’s understanding, if in different words. Some of of us will use the wrong words to understand it. But the creation of a baby and its eventual exit is a bit like the grappling with anger in a padded room, and the baby comes out often screaming. Not that it has necessarily come out yet. Greg with mixed feelings, mixed powers, will he create or destroy? Andy with his naive dependency on classic poetry and his own memories, the love he remembers that destroys as well as creates, himself also grappling with something. There is much truth in not understanding, juggling the words into different words, although I think I did understand it, unlike a different story I read earlier today elsewhere that went over my head. This didn’t do so. Today, at least.

  13. 19

    “Instead, he was writing. The words came out sometimes in streams, sometimes one by one like hard, brown stools.”

    That was Andy, is Andy. A writer, whose words have skewed. Writers who can empathise with this can also write better books than those who can’t? Andy is a natural writer, without realising it. But far more skewed than we can realise? (“I am farmer,” he had insisted, and, again “I am fantasy”). Famous, too. I can imagine him writing this in his cramped writing, often cramped when printed, too, like babies are cramped inside the womb. I can also imagine him writing about the alien corn at the beginning of this chapter, this fructifying nature, and Breanne soon coming to full term, coming to terms, too, as well as coming to fruition with Greg’s adoption in a court. And Greg’s sense of surrogate tumescent adoption projected preternaturally within Breanne’s womb, his empathy with the baby and its attachments. Birth certificate changed, indeed. Big and small things within such powers as he owns?

  14. 20 – 22

    “If there is a noodle window, all hungrys will die.”

    An inevitability pervades what happens. A fated catalytic ricochet of tongue-twisted oldster and miscontrolled youth. That blood moon seeping back through the clouds. And, as perhaps instinctualised predictively by me above, Greg now looking back at himself in his own mother’s womb. The house of the soul’s as well as the flesh’s beginning: now in metaphorical flames to match real flames elsewhere.

    “The old man was his mortal enemy and his only true friend.”

  15. 23 – 26

    “She’d seen him everywhere, heard his voice and his silences, but when she approached he was never there.”

    Breanne and her children, one being born and the other, literary and literal adoption having now made him hers for real, almost in erotic communion, I guess, with the act of birthing. Can that be right? Surely we are not reading this right. A synergy and symbiosis, a destructive-creative force where the breaking of waters become the breaking of the blood from the monthly moon. There are surely many different interpretations, so many of them that only the phenomenon of potentially great literature like this can cope with them, or cope with the many different readers thus interpreting it differently — meanings strobing here, in tune with the bodily cylinders as well as vibrating with earlier sculptural ones. We surely can empathise with the forces at work here, some good, some bad, but it’s the mixture of the two that makes each what it is by contrast with the other. The stoical pangs and passions now in stasis, a star above, now a moving aeroplane, now a star again with its own as yet unseen moon…and the photos of lost children now outgrown.

    “A dozen thin stainless steel cylinders, from waist-height to well over ten feet tall, constructed and arranged to vibrate at the slightest breeze.”


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