Book Reviews

Book Review: Moss

By Joe Pace

Published December 2021

234 Pages

Before deciding on a book, we typically read the blurb either on the book jacket or online to see if this is a story we want to dedicate several hours of our lives to.  At least, that’s what I do.  Based on the blurb for Moss, I expected the story of a moral dilemma regarding a man trying to decide if he should pass his late father’s manuscript off as his own.  That’s not what I got.  Moss gave so much more.

Oscar Kendall is the son of one of America’s greatest literary authors – Isaiah Moss.  However, only a handful of people know this by Oscar’s choosing.  He’s never met his father and his only communication has been letters that Isaiah wrote to him – often offering advice inappropriate to Oscar’s age.  Upon his father’s death, Oscar inherits his New Hampshire lakefront cabin, which contains an unpublished manuscript.  Yes, Oscar does struggle with whether or not he ought to pass the novel off as his own, but that’s not the story.  The story is about Oscar’s relationship with May, the paraplegic veteran who lives next door, as well as May’s grandmother Ruby, and a few other women who teach Oscar a thing or two about life.  And this is where I stop trying to summarize the novel because it’s so deep and introspective, I’m not sure I can do it justice.

It’s a coming-of-age story, even though the protagonist is in his early 40s.  

The prose is wonderful.  Seriously, some of the finest writing I’ve read in quite a long time (I suppose I ought to read more literary fiction).  The characters are complex and wonderfully flawed.  From Oscar, who longs to be a published author but never submits his work since he can’t measure up to his father.  To May, who became an amputee in Afghanistan and continues to live with a missing piece of her soul.  To Ruby, the gruff, no-nonsense neighbor who cared for Isaiah Moss and still longs for her husband lost in Vietnam.  Beautiful, warped lives that propped each other up, ripped each other apart, and taught tough-love lessons.

There is only one reason I didn’t rate this novel higher and please don’t hate on me, because I’m aware it’s horrendously nitpicky.  While most of the story takes place in New Hampshire, Oscar teaches at a fictional school located in Southern Maryland.  I liked the school, I have no problem with fictional locales, but the location of the school, in relation to everything else mentioned in Maryland, didn’t make sense.  See, I live in Southern Maryland and it’s a very specific area.  We are not a stone’s throw from DC, nor are we anywhere near Walter Reed Army Hospital. The school should have been set in Montgomery county, maybe in Bethesda. That would have made sense. 

I know, I know, minor details.  And I got over it.  But there was still that small sigh in the back of my mind.  That “but…,” that lingered.  Kind of like watching Transformers, set in DC but filmed in Chicago.  Or Die Hard 2, set at Dulles Airport but obviously filmed on the west coast.  It was irksome and stayed lodged in the back of my mind, pulling me away from the story.

My final rating came in at 4.25 stars.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐+  Not quite enough to round up to five stars but still, a really wonderful read.  

Thank you to BookSirens for providing the ARC copy of this novel.  I have left my review voluntarily and honestly.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Moss”

  1. I agree with your “nitpicky” — a little research would have placed the school correctly. Or if the author wanted it there, then rewrite to make it work. I have the same penchant for details.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He reached out to me after I posted the review on BookSirens. Really nice guy – he told me where he’d intended to set the school and it’s where I figured but that use of the word “southern” changed it for me. Which is why I’m really careful when I’m writing about real places, even if I know the area.


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