September 06, 2016
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A gun in a lake. A Missing mother. Ana is on the run. But from who? For fans of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.Once, in a Town Called Moth is told both from Ana's time in Toronto and her time in Bolivia, living as part of the Colony Felicidad community. The parts of her story in Toronto are told in the third person while those in Bolivia use first person narration. The difference is interesting and gives a different feel for the different locations.
Ana is not your typical teenager. She grew up in a tiny Mennonite colony in Bolivia, and her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now Ana and her father have also fled, and Ana doesn’t know why. She only knows that something was amiss in their tight-knit community. Arriving in Toronto, Ana has to fend for herself in this alien environment, completely isolated in a big city with no help and no idea where to even begin. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the myriad unspoken codes and rules. She is befriended by a teacher. She goes to the library, the mall, parties. And all the while, she searches for the mother who left so long ago, and tries to understand her father—also a stranger in a strange land, with secrets of his own.
This is a beautifully told story that will resonate with readers who have struggled with being new and unsure in a strange place, even if that place is in a classroom full of people they know. Ana’s story is unique but universal; strange but familiar; extraordinary but ordinary: a fish out of water tale that speaks to us all.
I enjoyed that Ana's time in Colony Felicidad, her Mennonite upbringing and their separation from modern, everyday society played into the story in the ways they did. It was not all good, or all bad - her introduction to and feelings about Toronto and being a (more) regular teenager, or her feelings about their life in Bolivia. There's a nice balance between what she chooses to change or adapt to, what she has to change and what she does not change.
The setting of this book does a really good job not having a particular when. It' is one of those books that feels in turns both set in the modern, present day and set maybe a decade or two ago. It's the best sort of timeless. You know because o the presence of smartphones, the internet, iPods that it'scurrent but there's nothing dating beyond that. I really enjoy when books can do this.
I really like that, in many ways, it felt like there were not big, giant monumental things occurring as we followed Ana's everyday life (with one or tow obvious exceptions). Yet, when we reach the end of the book, it is abundantly clear that she is not the same girl who began the story. There have been a lot of changes in Ana, a lot of growth, a lot of growing up. It's only once many of those things have happened that you realize how instrumental they were in her development.
Trilby Kent does a fantastic job showing up Ana's everyday life, with its everday issues (and, again, some giant ones, of course) but making the sum of those days something exponentially greater.
digital copy received for review, from publisher via NetGalley