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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
When I reflect on Moss by Joe Pace, three words come to mind immediately: deep, unique, and extraordinary. All three adjectives apply to Pace’s characters, plot, themes, and style...in fact, everything about this novel. Quite honestly, I cannot get this exquisite literary novel out of my thoughts, and here's why. The style is primarily reflective narrative. In many novels, that approach slows down the pace of the plot. But Oscar Kendall, the narrator, is such a conflicting blend of emotions that, like a Venus flytrap, he grabs a reader’s psyche and won’t let go. The same applies to May: she fascinates both Oscar and the reader. What is it with her? Why does she behave as she does? And then there are the almost strange members of May’s family. Each character is unique; their motivations and actions are complex. But it is how all these characters’ lives intersect that gives readers a plot so extraordinary that few of us see the twists coming our way. When they do, Moss becomes unforgettable.
But Moss’s intense impact on the reader goes beyond its plot, characters, and style. Overshadowing everything in Oscar’s life is his father, Isaiah Moss, a famous author Oscar knows very little about until he inherits his father’s cabin and his old typewriter. Through letters that Isaiah has written to his estranged son, and through May’s experience, readers so thoroughly feel the devastating effects that war has on those called to fight that we are beyond moved. Pace’s ability to capture the emotional and physical suffering is unique: it cuts deeply into readers’ minds and hearts and holds us captive long after the story has ended. As a would-be writer, I felt compelled to make notes on some of the insights Isaiah Moss offered on writing, e.g. “My writing teachers were my eyes and ears and my imagination…ears are more important to writers than eyes or hands.” Moss is a deep and unique novel, and Joe Pace, like the fictional Isaiah Moss, is one extraordinary writer.