It’s the summer of 1938, and in the rural town of Calloway, Virginia, something is brewing --- something that 18-year-old Jessilyn Lassiter has felt before. Amidst romance in the air and the brilliant colors of summer sunsets, Jessilyn and her best friend Gemma know racial tension is on the rise. Six years ago, that tension exploded with burning crosses and white-robed Klansmen. Their hate-filled, public displays were reduced to a simmer since then, but the two best friends --- one white, one black --- knew it was about to bubble over again. When a black doctor sets up shop in Calloway’s “colored” district, he fans the flames of the Klansmen’s hatred, setting in motion a series of events that will change the people of Calloway and leave two mothers grieving for their sons.
Jessilyn knows how it feels to be in love, because Luke Talley stole her heart when she was 13 and never let go. She knows the joy of friendship, because she and Gemma are as close as sisters, and it never mattered to her that Gemma was black. She knows hate, because she’s come face to face with it more than once since Gemma’s parents died and the Lassiters took her in. But Jessilyn does not know the love and grace of God. Nor does she understand why all the people she loves most in the world worship a Savior who allows bad things to happen and forgives those who mistreat them. That kind of faith remains a mystery.
Jessilyn and Gemma first meet Tal Pritchett, a young, black doctor, after their friend is beaten up by some white guys in town. By the time the doctor is done tending to the young man’s wounds, his interest in Gemma is clear to Jessilyn. There is no doubt that Gemma has feelings for the doctor as well. While Tal and Gemma inch into their romance, Luke is finally admitting his love for Jessilyn. The two share moments so tender and touching that it will make your heart swell with emotion.
Soon enough, Tal and Gemma are married, but the joy of love is overshadowed by a cloud of hate, as the Klansmen beat and hang a young boy who is a friend to all the main characters. The murderers then turn their attention to the doctor, angry that he treated a white woman, even though it was at her request. That anger boils over one evening when Jessilyn leaves Gemma’s house and heads home. Something evil is lurking in the woods, and Jessilyn soon finds herself the prey of a white-robed predator. As he gains on her, she fears for her life, not knowing that Gemma and Tal are in the hands of the Klan as a wooden cross burns in front of their house. What God does with this hate-filled, terror-filled situation will open Jessilyn’s heart and change a town that seemed hopelessly destined to oppression at the hands of the Klan.
CATCHING MOONDROPS, the final book in a trilogy that began with FIREFLIES IN DECEMBER and followed with COTTONWOOD WHISPERS, is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. I could write endlessly about the clever dialogue, colorful imagery and unique voice. And I certainly can’t leave out the depth and attitude of the characters, the compelling plot, or the way the book takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Yet none of this does justice to the novel or its gifted author. Jennifer Erin Valent possesses writing talent that will surely have her name on bestseller lists for years to come.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on October 1, 2010