Moonpie and Ivy

by Barbara O'Connor

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Frances Foster Books

151 pages, 2001

Reading level: 9 to 12 years

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Mother and Child Reunion

Reviewed by Lynne Remick


For a pre-teenager, growing up with a wacky mother isn't easy, but neither is growing up without one. No one knows this like 12-year-old Pearl, whose mother, Ruby, for no apparent reason, packs up their things and heads for her childhood home in rural Georgia. But that's not all. The estranged Ruby also decides to drop in on her sister Ivy and leave Pearl behind.

"I hate to tell you this honey, but your mama's done gone off the deep end."

Pearl squinted, staring down the dirt road, thinking maybe if she stared long enough she'd catch a glimpse of Mama's car coming back. Pearl was sure that any minute now she was going to see Mama's dented-up old car bouncing up the bumpy road toward them.

Pearl leaned forward and squeezed her eyes tighter.

"I think there's a car down there," she said. "She mention anything about going to get cigarettes?" Pearl asked.

"She was gone when I got up, Pearl."

Thrown into a difficult new world with Ivy, an aunt she hardly knows; Moonpie, a strange kid who lives next door; John Dee, Ivy's beau -- and Ruby's past -- Pearl feels like there is seldom room to grow. At Ivy's house, the world centers around Moonpie. Since Moonpie isn't the only one who must cope without a "real" mother, Pearl resents his role in Ivy's life. Pearl misses her mother and hates her, all at the same time. Writing postcards to Ruby that she cannot send, Pearl reveals how she feels with great honesty and insight.

Dear Mama,

There is this spooky boy named Moonpie. His mama is no good like you, but at least he has somebody else, even if it is a wrinkled-up old lady in the bed.

Love, Pearl

Through constant longing and emotional pain, Pearl learns a valuable lesson in family, one she realizes that her mother could never have taught her. At that point, her life begins to open up to a better understanding of Ivy, Moonpie, her mother, herself and new possibilities.

Dear Ivy,

Thank you.

Love, Pearl

In Moonpie and Ivy Barbara O'Connor, acclaimed novelist of Beethoven in Paradise and Me and Rupert Goody, has again created captivating, displaced characters who are easy to identify and sympathize with. Pearl's journey from the person she was in Tallahassee to the person she becomes in Georgia is a journey of the heart and it's a journey worth looking in on. While the overall tone of the story stems from the confusion and bittersweet emotions of a young girl, the less-than-happy ending leaves the reader with reality and a sense of hope -- not an easy feat to achieve for a writer. | September 2001

An avid reader, established reviewer and writer of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, historical romance and children's books, Lynne Remick can always be found with a book in her hand. She lives in New York with her fiancé Michael, her son Kevin, her Schipperke Dante, a feral cat named Sahara and a spoiled hedgehog named Nike. There, in a little house once owned by her great grandparents, she reads, writes stories, book reviews, writing columns and poetry.