Moonstone Hero

Fiction - Adventure
229 Pages
Reviewed on 08/29/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers' Favorite

Moonstone Hero by David Sklar takes readers to Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa where they meet American medical student Andrew on his mission to climb that mountain. He is part of a group from a variety of countries. They all have the same destination in mind and the same guide - but different reasons for wanting to arrive at the top, and different attitudes to the climb. Andrew discovers that Eve, Barry's girlfriend, is the most interesting member of the group. He feels drawn to her, but the fact that she has a boyfriend is an issue. All of this is of little importance once Barry falls ill and nobody is willing to take him back down the mountain. Everyone wants to reach the top. Even the guide plays down the seriousness of Barry's condition. Barry gets worse until Andrew and Eve fear for his life. On the eve of the final climb to the summit, Andrew has to make a difficult decision. Will everyone survive the visit to the mountain and how will the climbers' decisions influence the rest of their lives?

When I finished the first half of Moonstone Hero by David Sklar, I found myself wondering what else the author had to tell. For me, the most interesting part seemed to be over. Certainly the pace and excitement level changes dramatically in the second half of the book. It's not a case of the author running out of steam or ideas, but adjusting to the characters' development. Some stories do not need to be filled with life-threatening situations and dangers to be interesting, and while I did prefer the first half, I still enjoyed what followed. I found some of Andrew's decisions to be questionable. It worked out for him, but I would have recommended that the man do some things differently. The book is worth reading if you like a good mix of adventure and character development because the one thing you can't deny is that the characters in this book do change a lot. That's exactly what kept me reading. It's hard to describe why, but I also found the author's style quite relaxing to read. It was just what I needed!

Michael Baron

The book’s back cover presents the premise: Andrew, an American medical student, decides to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of international travelers, a climb that “takes an unexpected turn” when another would-be hiker, Barry, takes ill, and is confronted with the dilemma whether to attempt saving Barry and risk his own life.

We learn early Barry, a young Peace Corps worker, described multiple times as having been a Stanford student, “suddenly became ill.” Without spoiling the entire plot, there are six major episodes to the book: 1. The ascent. 2. The descent. 3. Andrew’s post-ascent trip to the Malindi seaside for some well-needed R&R. 4. His trip six months later to visit fellow hikers Klaus and Kara in Copenhagen, seeking their understanding and advice about his self-described “obsession.” 5. Nearly two years later his participation in San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race. 6. The epilogue update, about a decade later, of Andrew’s life in Albuquerque in 1986.

Less than half the book is devoted to the ascent and the descent of Kilimanjaro. It is a tough slog, the weight of that journey, borne out in gruesome detail: more than two hundred references to Barry’s health (“cough,” “breathing,” “phlegm,” “blood,” “vomit,” “pink froth”). But stay with it, for the rest of the story makes this book worthwhile. It is in this balance of this tale that Andrew wrestles with the dilemmas of life: paths taken and not taken in love, career, and friendship, and confronting what matters, what is meaningful, and, at times, the way one betrays and advances one’s own best interests.

Thrown into the mix are bits of magic, not the least of which includes Andrew first encountering a stranger, a shaman-like African woman on a bus who single-handedly thwarts scoundrels from harming Andrew after their bus ride ends. She takes off in the crowd before he can thank her or know her name, but later, when Andrew enters a café in Malindi, Grace, the owner of the café, reappears where she provides a gift: a translucent moonstone. Reconnections with three separate individuals he’d known from his Kilimanjaro adventure also appear in San Francisco, but here the magic of “coincidence” seems more predetermined.

The ascent and descent, through the muck and mire of the bitter cold and Barry’s descending health, are sparse on dialogue, not unlike scenes from “The Revenant” with Leonard DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, filled with author Sklar’s take on Andrew’s silent introspections. But it is Andrew’s trip to Malindi, and the spirited dialogue with his love interest and others where the reader will be drawn in to what then develops into a real page-turner. As good as “Moonstone Hero” may be as a book, I think it would fare even better as a movie.