Monday, February 02, 2009

The Brightest Moon of the Century

Those who read last year’s Christopher Meeks short story collection Months and Seasons will likely remember Edward, a boy trying to cope with the sudden death of his mother with very little support from his still grieving father. Edward, already having a tough time adjusting to life without his mother, has the rest of his world turned upside down when his father decides to send him to an all-boys private school for rich kids. But by the end of that story, “Hands,” Edward and his father are starting to figure things out and it appears that, together, they might just make it.

The Brightest Moon of the Century, Meeks’s debut novel, uses the same short story to kick off its account of Edward Meopian’s life from ages 14 to 45. Edward, at age 14, is perfectly content to blend into life’s background, seeing that as the best way to avoid trouble with bullies, teachers and intimidating people of all stripes, including girls his age. However, when he finds it impossible to lose himself in the crowd at his new school, Edward begins to focus on solving life’s two biggest mysteries as he sees them: girls and finding that niche in the universe meant just for him.

There is a bit of Everyman in Edward and, like many of us, he sometimes takes life’s path of least resistance rather than the straightest one toward his goals, causing him to reach those goals a little later, but much wiser, than others. Because of that habit, he finds himself for a while running a trailer park mini-mart deep in the heart of Alabama and working in the back room of a southern California camera shop before finally gaining access to the prestigious Los Angeles film school program of which he dreamed for so long.

Edward Meopian, by his mid-forties, puts together almost exactly the life he dreamed about as a young man. He has the beautiful wife, the son, and the dream career he dared chase. Life, though, has a few more surprises for Edward but, this time, he is ready for them. He has lived, and he has learned, and now the brightest moon of the century gives him hope that the best part of his life is still ahead of him.

The Brightest Moon of the Century is one man’s story, a very ordinary man, at that, but Christopher Meeks has filled that story with enough interesting characters and episodes to remind just how limitless and filled with surprises even the most ordinary of lives can be. Meeks’s characters, and his slightly off centered view of life, continue to remind me of John Irving’s early work, definitely a good thing.

I wonder where Edward will end up - and what he will think about it all when he looks back at the lonely 14-year-old boy he once was. As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Rated at: 5.0

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