Hand, Elizabeth. Waking the Moon. New York: Harper, 4/96. 497p.
Elizabeth Hand is one of those funny cases. You know how there are some authors that you just can't seem to read--the words just don't seem to transfer from the page to the brain. In one eye and out the other ear. For some reason I have the same reaction to Alexander Jablokov. Anyways, I'd attempted to read several of Hand's short stories and novels in various places over the years but had never been able to finish any of them. I'd more or less written her off for any future consideration. But then Waking the Moon was published and the reviews started to poor in. They were great reviews, giving the impression that this was a different kind of story from the others. More accessable, a dark fantasy rather than sf. Set in the past rather than the far future. What the heck, I thought, give her work one more chance. Boy, am I ever glad I did. Waking the Moon is a classic example of a novel black magic, mysterious goddess cults and murder. In 1975, Sweeney Cassidy goes to Washington, DC to study Anthropology at the University of the Archangel and St. John the Divine, where she meets and falls in love with an angelic young man named Oliver and a mysterious young woman named Angelica. Unfortunately, Oliver and Angelica also seem to be in love and they are both also members of the mysterious group, the Benandati. On a school retreat, everything comes to a head, Oliver kills himself, Angelica disappears and Sweeny is alone. Skip to 1995, Sweeney has a steady museum job but no life. Suddenly, Angelica appears. It seems she is a up-and-coming figure who has written a few bestselling books and is founding a goddess cult. Of course, she is surrounded by mysterious murders and disappearances. Sweeney even meets and falls in love with Angelica's eighteen-year-old son. As you can imagine, it all comes to a head at the end with Sweeney being forced to overcome her doubts and make a choice. Not to be missed.