Moonlight on the Nantahala, by Michael Rivers is the story of Edward Caulfield and three women who have been very important in his life. His love for his wife, Celia, whom he lost after a few short years together, lasted his whole life. There was never another for him and he lived out his life in remembrance of her.
Now as he is in the twilight of his life, he meets a young woman, Lena, who has has seen off and on for the last several years walking on his property. They strike up a tentative friendship that develops over time. While Edward senses something troubling the Lena, he is content to just sit and talk, until he sees that maybe he can offer her something that she obviously doesn't have, security in a relationship where she is free to reveal her troubles. Their conversations reveal Edward's life story and Lena's struggles in dealing with her controlling mother, absent father and abusive husband.
Betty is Edward's housekeeper and friend of many years. She is sassy and not afraid to tell Edward like it is. Edward is grateful for her companionship and for being there when he has needed her. In return for her staying with him all these many years, he has taken care of financially and given her a home after the loss of her husband.
While I was somewhat apprehensive about reading another book outside of my usual comfort zone, I was instantly drawn to the characters and the idea that friendship and love has no boundary, least of all age, gender or death. I understand why Edward is drawn to Lena because he sees so much of Celia in her. Lena, on the other hand is troubled over her family and husband and doesn't know what to do about her life. I love the fact that Lena becomes stronger and more in control the longer she spends time and talks with Edward.
Love comes in many different forms. Edward loved Celia, but also showed his love for Lena just by being there for her during her time of need. And Betty, she showed her love for Edward by taking care of him during his golden years and looking out for him as he forged his friendship with Lena. And Celia, while gone for many, many years, showed her loved for all three by making herself known at many crucial moments in the story. She was as real as you could possibly imagine.
Each has lost something from their lives, yet they've gained something far greater than any could ever imagine - love and friendship, transcending all else, and standing the test of time.
While this book can be read in an afternoon, I found the characters to be real and believable, and the story compelling enough to want to read it again and take a bit more time to absorb all the nuances of feelings that leaped from the pages. Find a quiet place to read this and if it happens to be on a rainy Saturday afternoon, then you won't be disappointed.