Kelly Barnhill on writing The Girl Who Drank the Moon: “I started writing this book, finally, in a small purple notebook at four in the morning in an un-air-conditioned motel room in Costa Rica during my honeymoon.”
The Girl Who Drank the Moon may be much too witchy for some readers. It was a little too witchy for me. There’s a mostly good witch, and a bad witch, and a fellowship of Sisters who are really deluded and autocratic, or blind follower, witches, and a young girl who grows up to be a good witch under the tutelage of the first witch in this list. From all of that witchiness it may seem that the book is about witches, but it’s really about magic, and growing up, and child sacrifice, and adoptive families, and birth families, and extended families. In all of those “abouts” or themes, I thought the book was so good that I didn’t mind the witchiness too much, although I’d rather the word “magician” or something else were used.
The characters are Xan, the Witch in the Forest; and Glerk, the Swamp Monster; and Fyrian, the Perfectly Tiny Dragon; and Luna, the baby who is enmagicked by feeding on too much magical moonlight. The story tells of Luna’s childhood with her adoptive mother, Xan, deep in the forest, and of the harsh life of the villagers who live in the Protectorate on the edge of the forest. The villagers are governed by the dictatorial Council of Elders and by the Sisters of the Star, and they live lives of deprivation and poverty while the Elders and the Sisterhood benefit from the villagers’ fear of the forest witch and their sorrow over the many infants that have been sacrificed to appease the witch.
I could not help thinking of the many, many infants that have been sacrificed to Fear and to autocratic Old Men in our own country over the years since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. How much sorrow has fed how many demons since that edict was handed down?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is not an anti-abortion book, or any kind of Book With a Message. I’m not sure the author ever intended the analogy to be drawn between the babies sacrificed to the witch and the babies sacrificed to abortion. Nevertheless, I can’t be the only one who saw the underlying similarity. This book is a lovely story with beautiful writing and memorable characters.
Examples of the beautiful sentences that will draw and hold word-lovers:
“This is what allows her to wander the world, spreading her malevolence and sorrow. This is what allows her to elude capture. We have no power. Our grief is without remedy.”
“Her mother gathered the flowers of particular climbing vines and sapped them of their essences and combined them with honey that she pulled from the wild hives in the tallest trees. She would climb to the tops, as nimble as a spider, and then send the honeycombs down in baskets on ropes for Xan to catch. Xan was not allowed to taste. In theory. She would anyway. And her mother would climb down and kiss the honey from her little-girl lips.”
Lots more lovely writing is available in this book if you like that sort of thing (I do).