Fans of contemporary Christian fiction won’t want to miss Debbie Fuller Thomas’s debut novel, TUESDAY NIGHT AT THE BLUE MOON, with its fresh storyline and competent prose. Is it possible for babies to be switched at birth? In this book it is, and the mistake isn’t discovered until one family's daughter dies from a genetic hereditary disease --- one her family doesn’t carry.
When Matilda “Marty” Winslow’s beloved adolescent daughter, Ginger, succumbs to Niemann-Pick disease, the family realizes she is not their daughter by birth. They petition to have her birth records opened and, two years later, find themselves in court to win custody of Andrea “Andie” Lockhart, their true birth daughter who recently lost who she thought were her parents in a hotel fire and has lived the past few years with her elderly grandparents.
Even in the courtroom, Marty knows that 13-year-old Andie is her birth daughter: “She took my breath away, she was so beautiful. Quicksilver. A perfect amalgam of Deja and Winnie, my other daughters. There was no question that she belonged to us.” Thomas tells her story with lovely, competent prose. One example: As they begin a new chapter in family life, Marty muses, “The future was like an unwritten recipe of the known and the unknown, or a new take on rhubarb pie. If you add in enough of the sweet stuff, and you expect it to be a little tart, it can turn out well.”
Andie leaves the trailer she shares with her grandparents in a seniors community for a new life with her mother (now divorced and estranged from her husband), her artistic grandfather, Carl, and two sisters. She is expected to help out at the family-run movie theater called the Blue Moon Drive-In, a nostalgic plot device that provides some interesting scenes throughout the novel.
Nothing about the traumatic family reshuffling is easy, and Thomas doesn’t resort to any pat scenarios or simple solutions. The grandparents, despite their love for Andie, are in poor health, and soon Andie’s absence becomes the norm for them. Deja, a rebellious 15-year-old who has turned Goth, makes it plain that she doesn’t want a new sister, especially one who will share her room. Andie is allergic to the beloved family cat Cyclops, and even nine-year-old Winnie, anxious to make friends, finds that Andie is a tough nut to crack.
Thomas adeptly switches back and forth between different first-person points of view throughout the novel, although at times covering the same ground, which can slow down the narrative. Financial distress, broken relationships, grief and adolescent angst are shown more than told, which makes for a rich, invigorating read. A few of the nice character touches: Marty’s compulsive baking binges and Winnie’s anxious snacking.
Events move toward a climax when the anniversary of Ginger’s death looms. Marty must acknowledge that Andie is not Ginger, Winnie is able to verbalize some of her anger over past events, and even Andie finds herself praying for Marty in her grief: “None of this was her fault, but she was paying for it anyway. And I figured she’d had more than her share of hurt, since she’d taken care of a sick kid that wasn’t even hers to begin with.”
Thomas incorporates spiritual themes throughout, and the ending is satisfactorily redemptive without attempting to “fix” all the messiness of the situation. This is a promising debut from an enjoyable new voice in faith fiction.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on June 1, 2008