Talking to the Moon tells the story of a “Filipino American” family (to borrow the phrase that the son’s Taiwanese boyfriend is always baffled by—why, he wonders, are America’s Asians so quick to identify with a country that wreaks havoc on their self esteem?): father Jory, an altar boy tu
The book begins when Jory is shot while delivering mail by a racist man fresh from shooting up a Jewish daycare center. This really happened in
But what he, and the reader, seems to discover is that all premature losses play out similarly. They are unfair, devastating, and they are opportunities for love and reminiscing. In this way, the evilness of the hate crime may be lessened, but so is its power. In the same way that featuring a non-sexualized female character can be a much more radical act that featuring a female character who “owns” her sexuality or some other postmode
Belen’s eventual decision not to pursue the most severe punishment for the gunman is treated almost as an aside, but it’s important: This comes after a lifetime of love and anger—not the least of which comes from her own mother, who literally cursed her for marrying the wrong man—and choosing love (or at least denying hate) ends the bargaining and strategizing that occur when people treat faith like a game.
Much of the novel is told in flashback, and yet it maintains a strong, subtle forward momentum. Another testament to Noel’s craft (which has come a long way since his nevertheless impressive debut, Letters to Montgomery Clift) is the fact that, unlike most books employing multiple points of view, I didn’t get bored during any character’s narrative.
My only beef with Talking to the Moon is its marketing. The cover features a discreetly nude young man for no apparent reason, and the blurb on the back announces it as a “gay-themed novel.” As much as I get annoyed when writers are too quick to say, “I’m not a gay [black, Latino, Asian, woman] writer, I’m just a writer” (because, come on, support your community a little bit), I think Noel would be right to be irked by a book description that is simply inaccurate.
One of the three main characters is gay, but if that makes the book a gay novel, it’s also a Pacific Islander novel, an