The Fireweed Moon touchingly contrasts the Americas of 2017 and the 1950s, especially when it comes to race and faith. Leon, Willow, and her half-brother agree to exhume Lily’s grave, while more messages from the past, in the form of letters and family testimonial, reveal Lily and Raymond’s interracial love affair in the ‘50s, which resulted in Raymond’s murder. Unfortunately, the same biases haven’t gone away in the novel’s present, as exhibited by the Crosswinds of Eden Community Church megachurch members and Reverend Tommy Brookdale, who fuel the flames of racial hatred and “In-vaders!”
Meanwhile, Lily’s letters reveal how Reverend Roberts preached eloquently generations ago a message that still urgently resonates, how “To be a sensitive person is to suffer” and that transcending the human impulse toward fight or flight means “trusting in each new moment of each new day, not in yesterday, not in tomorrow, but in right now—where God is.” Readers of humane stories that don’t shy away from life’s darkness will be moved as Willow, too, must decide whether to fight or flee again as the community threatens her sobriety and safety. This entry compels on its own, but readers are advised to start with the first book
Takeaway: Resonant finale to a humane multi-generational saga of American families.
Comparable Titles: Maisy Card’s These Ghosts Are Family, Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s The Shape of Family.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Barbara J. Dzikowski's The Fireweed Moon is the captivating third and final addition to the Moon trilogy, bringing the family saga full circle as characters search for truth and redemption.
A passionate woman struggling with her New York City art career, Willow Trudeau decides to return to the small town of Weeping Willow, Ohio, where her father, Leon Ziemny, still resides. Upon arrival, Willow is surprised to find that her father has a houseguest who seems to have a connection to her late grandmother. This likeable stranger is hoping to find an heirloom family Bible that's been missing since his pastor brother was brutally murdered, decades earlier.
Joining his efforts, Willow begins a journey that reveals private disclosures and stirs up volatile emotions in a town with a nearby megachurch run by a smarmy con man who incites fear in his congregation. In an atmosphere of historic and modern-day racial strife, a shocking tragedy forces Willow and her extended family to rely on the saving grace of love to move forward.
With enlightening detail, Dzikowski introduces vivid characters from the past and present. From the Trudeau and Ziemny family members to town physicians, funeral directors, a waitress with an eye for Leon, and a smart detective with whom Willow had a prior relationship, each is an integral part of the larger puzzle.
To jump between time periods, Dzikowski skillfully uses a packet of letters that Willow uncovers of earlier correspondence between her grandmother, Lily, and Lily's sister, Clarry. Readers learn of the controlling husband who sent Lily to a sanitarium, how Lily’s feelings of self-worth seemed limited to her beauty, and the high price to be paid for a forbidden, clandestine relationship.
Well-crafted and rich in character, this emotional storyline weaves history, mystery, and tragedy to reveal a final portrait of strong family bonds and universal love. For those drawn to family sagas, the entire Moon trilogy will prove an enjoyable experience.
In the final book of Dzikowski’s Moon Trilogy, a 44-year-old artist leaves New York City to visit a town that shares her name, where a stranger is looking for her.
Ohioan Leon Ziemny knows “things could flip on a nickel,” and in this series entry, things certainly do: Leon’s childhood home back in Langston, Indiana, is on a list of buildings to be demolished. His middle-aged daughter, Willow, unexpectedly shows up in his current hometown of Weeping Willow, Ohio, just after someone else wanders into town asking about her. Leon’s first wife, Noël Trudeau, died giving birth to Willow in this quiet town, which was known as just Willow back then. Tragedy haunts several families there, including the Ziemnys and Trudeaus as well as the Ketchfields, so it’s no wonder that the town was renamed after the weeping willow trees that Leon planted after Noël’s death. Noël’s parents, Jack and Lily Trudeau, had moved to Willow in 1953, not long after the horrific death of Black preacher Raymond Roberts in their former Louisiana town. Over the years, the families experience a stillbirth, a premature death, suicides, and—in 2020—further tragedy after the unexpected appearance of the preacher’s elderly younger brother Booker, who’s trying to solve his own family’s mysteries. Time works differently in small towns, and in the best novels about such places, the prose does, as well: “This is a messy world. We live in an in-between place,” the preacher tells Lily in 1953, as read by Willow in 2020, and all time seems to exist at once. Letters found in secret compartments, medical records stashed in basements, and a buried Bible effectively bring the past’s mysteries to life and complicate the present. Somehow, Dzikowski keeps the narrative moving with the unhurried consistency of a sidewalk stroll to the corner store—one in which, as Lily writes in a letter, “even the cracks on the sidewalk seem to sing.”
Love and familial empathy shine through in this quiet, powerful novel.