In the case of this novel, most of the magical realism elements are set around the human connection to animals, and the chaos around month of May that takes over the small town of Verity, Florida every year. Verity is newly inundated with single mothers, due to the low cost of living and the scenery. Even though it seems a relatively placid place to live, the month of May brings about drastic changes in the town.
When the meanest boy in Verity, Florida, Keith, runs away with an orphaned baby girl whose mother has been murdered, his mother Lucy refuses to believe he's guilty of the crime, even when evidence suggests otherwise. Julian Cash, who is a specialist with Verity's canine police unit, uses his dogs to dig up clues to Keith's whereabouts, but will the murderer be found in time?
Animals always seem to crop up in Alice Hoffman's books, whether it's the doves of The Dovekeepers, the horses of The Foretelling, or the wolves of Second Nature. In this book, the main theme is dogs, although a gator does pop up in the course of the story. Julian has two dogs he uses to track suspects: Loretta, a relatively well-behaved shepherd, and Arrow, a semi-feral "air dog" whose nose can track anything rotten, even long-dead things. Arrow forms a special connection with one of the characters late in the book, proving although he won't let anyone else touch him, he isn't as rabid as he seems.
We also get to see the other side of a relative ne'er-do-well, Keith, and his grown-up equivalent, Julian. Keith seems to get into more trouble when he moves to Verity, pining for New York, where his father lives, instead of the smothering heat of Florida. Julian is a man of few words when the book begins, but subtle changes take place in his life throughout the book. He has many things he's done wrong in life and realizes that, but sticks relatively to the straight and narrow path as this book plays out.
My favorite quote:
"But doing the right thing doesn't mean you can sleep at night. It doesn't mean you won't regret it for the rest of your life."
~Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman, page 238
Turtle Moon has every element I love about Alice Hoffman's novels: animals, a small town setting, and genuine human beings as characters. Although I would have liked to see a little more about a certain angel that haunts a tree in town, it really couldn't have been a much better read for me. If you like contemporary, but aren't afraid of mixing it up with a little suspense and fantastical elements, you should consider giving Turtle Moon a try.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptional portrait of a town called Verity!
Content: Ages 16+ for non-graphic sex scenes, violence, Diet Dr. Pepper-addicted divorcees, and one loyal dog.
Page Count: 255 pages in my hardcover edition.