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Book Review: “The Moon, The Stars, & Madame Burova” fails to reach the stars

There’s nothing like a decades-old secret to try and solve as you read along. Ruth Hogan’s latest novel, “The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova,” is a memorable and lovable tale following a hopeless romantic clairvoyant and a woman experiencing an identity crisis. The two women are searching for the answers to the secrets haunting them with the glitz of an amusement park backing them.

In 1972, Imelda–known as Madame Burova–is a tarot card reader, palmist, and clairvoyant at a Brighton beachfront amusement park where she meets her lover Cillian Byrne, the Wall of Death rider. Today, Billie discovers after her parent’s deaths that she is a ‘foundling’ and goes in search of her biological parents. This search leads her to Imelda and the secrets she’s kept for decades.

We don’t just follow Imelda and Billie’s stories in “The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova” –Hogan weaves the experiences of a budding singer, the biracial son of the park manager, and performing mermaids as well as a few others into a varied cast of enigmatic characters. With as many characters and perspectives as there are, Hogan could’ve been bogged down with giving each one the growth and development they deserve. Still, she effortlessly entwines carefully, placed nuance into each one.

The narrative jumps back and forth between 1972 and the present day from Imelda and Billie’s perspectives as secrets are revealed throughout the novel. Despite the book focusing on Imelda and Billie’s stories, some of the other eclectic characters from the amusement park share their unique perspectives of the circumstances surrounding the park events of 1972. The varied (and occasionally conflicting) views add humor and nuance to our favorite characters and each of their lives–no matter if they’re a major or minor character.

Given the heavy topics and decades-long secret, you would think “The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova” would sucker punch you in the heart, but in the end, it falls short and leaves me wanting so, so much more. The potential was there¬ to leave readers a weeping mess after finishing the novel. If Hogan had 100 more pages to dive into the complexity of the cast’s experiences or even given Imelda and Cillian more time to develop their romance, this would’ve knocked it out of the park.

I had high hopes for ending “The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova,” but sometimes we can’t get what we want. A delightful and endearing read, this will leave you yearning for the one who got away.

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