The New Moon's Arms

The New Moon's Arms First It S Her Mother S Missing Gold Brooch Then, A Blue And White Dish She Hasn T Seen In Years Followed By An Entire Grove Of Cashew Trees When Objects Begin Appearing Out Of Nowhere, Calamity Knows That The Special Gift She Has Not Felt Since Childhood Has Returned Her Ability To Find Lost Things Calamity, A Woman As Contrary As The Tides Around Her Caribbean Island Home, Is Confronting Two Of Life S Biggest Dramas First Is The Death Of Her Father, Who Raised Her Alone Until A Pregnant Calamity Rejected Him When She Was Sixteen Years Old The Second Drama She S Starting Menopause Now When She Has A Hot Flash And Feels A Tingling In Her Hands, She Knows It S A Lost Object Calling To Her Then She Finds Something Unexpected A Four Year Old Boy Washes Up On The Shore, His Dreadlocked Hair Matted With Shells Calamity Decides To Take The Orphaned Child Into Her Care, Which Brings Unexpected Upheaval Into Her Life And Further Strains Her Relationship With Her Adult Daughter Fostering This Child Will Force Her To Confront All The Memories Of Her Own Childhood And The Disappearance Of Her Mother So Many Years Before

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican born writer and editor who lives in Canada Her science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

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  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • The New Moon's Arms
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • English
  • 07 November 2018
  • 9780446581974

10 thoughts on “The New Moon's Arms

  1. says:

    Nalo Hopkinson is not Margaret Atwood.This may seem like a strange and perhaps obvious epiphany to have Indeed, some of you might be advanced enough not to need to read an entire book before arriving at it Some of you might be even further advanced say, doctorate in philosophy and question the veracity of this proposition So allow me to explain what I mean, and you philosophers can decide for yourself.I should explain that there are things about Nalo Hopkinson, or specifically about The New Moon s Arms, that remind me of Atwood and her writing Mainly, Calamity Lambkin is a woman coming to terms with the fact that she has accumulated a lot of past She has reached a point in life where people have begun to treat her differently she s the matriarch instead of the woman, the mother instead of the lover Calamity has reached the point where one becomes incredibly, sometimes dishearteningly, aware of the aging process And as this slow internal crisis comes over her, she finds herself in the middle of an external one, personified in the form of a boy who washes ashore one night, parents nowhere to be seen Throw in a strained relationship with a daughter Calamity had in her teens and an estranged onetime gay boyfriend who fathered the girl, and you have a recipe for a very interesting, character driven novel.Calamity reminds me a little of Elaine from Cat s Eye Both women spend a lot of time reflecting on significant events that have shaped the course of their lives Both set themselves somewhat at odds with other members of their community Elaine with her fellow artists, Calamity with family and friends Like Elaine, Calamity s voice is peppered with wry observations about societal expectations that result from her age, gender, and employment Both characters have romantic and sexual relations, but these are not the central purpose of the plot.So in many ways, Hopkinson s writing and voice remind me of Atwood s but their styles are very different, as are the perspectives from which they arrive at these observations Set in the Caribbean Islands, The New Moon s Arms infuses Calamity s quest for self discovery with a post colonial tinge Calamity s fictional nation is beholden to international agreements that, in turn, encourage it to make deals with unsavoury corporations Some of the people in the story are involved in these matters at quite a high level, though the matters themselves are always tangential to the actual plot Thus, as background scenery, these matters telegraph a sense of wanting to move on and catch up with the wider world They broadcast an appetite for progress that is troubling to some.In contrast, Calamity exhibits a pragmatic spirituality about the world around her She has the ability to find lost objects where in this case, find means that objects, including entire cashew orchards, will manifest spontaneously without her conscious effort This somewhat random ability disappeared when she was younger, but it returns to Calamity while she is at her father s funeral Along with the cryptozoological nature of the boy she finds and Calamity s own memory of encountering a quixotic girl in the ocean, this ability contributes to the label of magical realism that The New Moon s Arms has earned.There isn t a lot of magic in this book though Calamity s ability is ancillary I think it s there to demarcate her allegiance to the older, superstitious world versus the modern world Her ancient car is another such symbol Although some aspects of the modern world are definitely negative the various political shenanigans come to mind the old world is not all puppy dogs and rainbows Calamity also has some fairly outdated i.e., bigoted views on homosexuality and bisexuality as well.The father of Calamity s daughter, Michael, is gay He suspected this in high school Calamity, desperate because she had a crush on Michael, talked him into testing it out by having sex with her Well it turns out that turning gay people straight is not among Calamity s miracle powers, and Michael eventually settles down with another man, Orso Calamity s mistrust of Michael s lifestyle causes her to keep him out of raising their daughter It s unclear how much of her bigotry is actually a misdirected, generalized sense of enmity towards Michael because of his role in her unexpected pregnancy Would she still be homophobic if she had never had sex with Michael, if she had never gotten pregnant I don t know.I like that Hopkinson leaves this open to interpretation, much as I like that she makes Calamity a very fallible and flawed person Calamity is no saint, a textbook case of the unsympathetic protagonist I like that she has flaws even if I don t particularly like her.Why only three stars I wish the story had been developed somewhat deeply For example, there are some infrequent scenes in which a man who works at the Zooquarium is counting the number of monk seals in the habitat Their varying number mirrors the observations of Hector Goonan, a marine biologist trying to take a seal census around the island There s a narrative purpose for these scenes, one related to the mystery of the child whom Calamity saves Hopkinson draws on some very old and sometimes obscure mythology, and I feel that she could have made richer connections Perhaps she didn t want to become burdened by that same mythology she picked exactly and only what she needed to tell the story But I think it s still missing something to make it truly compelling.The New Moon s Arms is a book that rests almost entirely on the strength of its narrator and main character, Calamity Lambkin You might not like her though it would be accurate to say you ll love her sense of humour and her independence but hate her when she is judgemental and closed minded She is, in that sense, a very real and three dimensional character The story doesn t quite do her justice, for it doesn t stretch enough to accommodate everything that Hopkinson has packed into her But it s sufficient Like Margaret Atwood, Hopkinson succeeds in giving voice to a unique and sensible older woman whose self determination is a central part of the story In addition, she weaves elements of fantasy, mythology, and history into the book, creating an intriguing if not totally enjoyable work.

  2. says:

    An extraordinary read More magic realist than fantasy, with the inexplicable happenings woven into the fabric of life Gorgeously written Calamity, our narrator, is a profoundly flawed character, causing a lot of pain and damage particularly in her homophobia and biphobia, which are really hard moments to witness , yet we still root for her to stop being her own worst enemy and a dick This is very much a redemption story, one of sea change and escaping shackles in Calamity s case, of bitterness and the results of a hard, oppressive, fearful life She s suffered, and hands the suffering on, and this is very much a story of learning to break those patterns and acknowledge the hurt you cause as well as the hurt you feel.It is also a story of a menopausal woman I have never in my life read a book about a menopausal woman where that was explicitly described and absolutely integral and ongoing The idea we should keep it to ourselves, not discuss or acknowledge it, is so ingrained that I never even realised I d never read a book about a menopausal woman until I read one And then sat here staring at my ereader with my mouth open.Loved this book Marvellous, magical, moving, menopausal.

  3. says:

    In her usual unique style, Nalo Hopkinson takes the often told folk belief that humans and seals are related, and creates a great story I loved her protagonist Calamity formerly Chastity who, instead of experiencing menopause in the usual manner, discovers that she has regained her prepubescent power as a finder of lost things When she finds a child wrapped in seaweed, she is drawn into a world she briefly experienced as a child Calamity is far from perfect she is hostile to gay people because of an early romantic disappointment but she always tries to do the right thing Hopkinson s blend of myth, history, West Indian culture and speculative fiction never fails to entertain A fine read.

  4. says:

    The New Moon s Arms is a perfect summer read Set in the Caribbean, it is light splashy and fun and makes you feel like hanging out on the beach while reading it Yet at the same time it is deep and touches on a number of issues Parts are humorous, other parts very sad Calamity, the leading character, experiences many life changing events at once her father, who she has taken care of for years, dies, she starts menopause and every time she has a hot flash something she lost years ago appears out of nowhere and and finally, the day after her fathers funeral she finds a small boy who seems to have been washed up on the shore People from her Island have whispered about the Sea People for years and Calamity is convinced this child is one of them.

  5. says:

    4.5 stars

  6. says:

    As a child, Chastity Lambkin could find almost anything a mislaid book, lost change, missing keys all she had to do was concentrate on the item and wait for the last two fingers of her left hand to tingle The day Chastity s mother s empty rowboat drifted ashore, Chastity stopped finding things forever She dared not find the thing she missed most, so she couldn t find anything at all Years later, 52 year old Chastity now called Calamity rediscovers her long gone talent in the unlikeliest of ways and places During her father s funeral, the pin holding up Calamity s supervisor s underpants falls off, sending said bloomers to the ground in a moment of belly aching hilarity When the dust settles, Calamity finds the pin on the ground beside her feet and slips it into her pocket Later she realizes that it s the monogram pin given to her by her mother and lost many, many years before She connects the tingling in her hand to the found object in her pocket The pin, it seems, is the beginning of something Over the next few days, Calamity s hand tingles several times, accompanied by a hot flash and the reappearance of some long lost object her daughter s favorite teddy bear, Calamity s beloved childhood books, her toy dump truck, her missing hairbrush, her father s cashew grove, lost in a hurricane that destroyed the island they called home, and a boy a toddler washed up on the shore after a stormy night The boy is certainly Calamity s strangest find He babbles, but not in any language recognized by Calamity, her neighbors or the authorities His fingers are webbed together His ropy hair is matted and braided with seashells He has rough patches on the insides of his knees that stick together like Velcro when they touch Calamity takes the boy, who she calls Agway, into her home, agreeing to care for him until his parents can be located As she cares for Agway, delving into his mystery, she is forced to reconsider much in her life, including the truth of her own mother s disappearance Hopkinson has crafted an unflinchingly honest tale of a woman at a crossroads in her life Calamity isn t always likeable She s gruff and unforgiving, unable to let go of past disappointments She shrugs off the trappings of family, insisting that her daughter and grandson address her by her first name She is stubborn, strong willed and, sometimes, emotionally immature But that s just one side of the coin Calamity is, in many ways, a force of nature She s as moody as the sea she loves, and as solid as the trunk of the almond tree that reappears outside her bedroom window She is fiercely devoted to the people in her life and oh, so human Calamity s daughter, Ifeoma, is another great character She s her mother s daughter in many ways, but with softer edges Like her mother, she is facing big changes in her life Like her mother, she is navigating those tumultuous seas with strength and courage The cadence of this novel is as soothing as the sound of the surf Hopkinson uses West Indian dialect, fables and folktales to cast a spell over her readers From the first page, she transports her readers to a place that seems almost magical Time moves in a different rhythm, ebbing with the tides Past and present exist alongside one another, and the line between fiction and fact is nearly nonexistent The New Moon s Arms is absolutely mesmerizing I finished the last page sadly and closed the book reluctantly, unwilling to leave the roughly beautiful world I d inhabited so comfortably for several days review published in the Burlington Times News, 4 29 2007

  7. says:

    Wonderful Even better on the second read

  8. says:


  9. says:

    Engaging and breezily quick read, the first I ve read by Hopkinson and won t be the last She has a smooth, liquid style that works really well with the story she s telling, and the character of Calamity who is difficult and knows it is fun to watch, though she probably wouldn t be all that much fun to actually live with Indeed, most of the people around her, including her daughter, seem to find her a trial, and Calamity s own resistant and irresolute attitude to the inevitability of age begins to make her dislike herself She s not a terribly likable protagonist but she is, in a way, a sympathetic one.Set on the fictional Caribbean island of Cayaba, The New Moon s Arms has the feeling of a story entered halfway through While some flashback sequences and character memories sketch in the details of the backstory just enough for us to understand how those characters exist in the present Hopkinson paints with a broad brush, scattered with carefully chosen details to stand in for the rest By and large, it works.Hopkinson s characters stand out vividly from this backdrop Calamity s daughter, Ifeoma her friend and sometime lover, Gene Ifeoma s father, Michael Calamity herself and, of course, the child Calamity finds washed up on the beach the day after her father s funeral and who she eventually takes in and begins caring for as her own The relationships between these characters, past and present, drive the story in a way, all of The New Moon s Arms is about unresolved tensions within those relationships, and Calamity s attempt to adopt the boy who, it becomes increasingly clear, is not what he seems emerges as a way of avoiding that very resolution As such, the story is believable and true, and weaves the fantastic into an all too human situation.The most prominent fantastic element, Calamity s re emergent ability to find things which are lost, manifests in an interesting way When I read the jacket summary I thought she would spontaneously come across lost or missing objects, and at first this does seem to be the case After awhile, however, these objects begin to spontaneously appear, and not all of them are small Though the reason Calamity lost this ability is eventually explained, it s not entirely clear why it re emerges in her life when it does However, by keeping the focus of the novel on the human relationships, rather than Calamity s ability, Hopkinson doesn t really need to explain it.Unfortunately, some of those very relationships don t quite ring true Calamity s homophobia is actually startling for one thing, it seems to arise suddenly, far after the first gay character in her life is introduced It is, perhaps, meant to be read as a response to rejection, but it doesn t really work Calamity s behavior in this regard, and toward a few other characters, seems forgiven all too readily at the end of the novel, and there are enough other loose threads left over from an altogether too quick and unfortunately predictable wrapping up of the plot that the ending is ultimately unsatisfying It felt as though it needed to be about half a chapter longer.There seems to be a theme lately in the novels that I read of rushed endings, without all of the parameters fully thought out, or the plot threads fully worked out This is frustrating, because I really wanted to like this book than I did But in the final chapter the story seemed to lose its patience and rush headlong toward the end, which is too bad.On the other hand, while this is the first Nalo Hopkinson novel I read, it won t be the last She s an excellent writer with good ideas, and I look forward to experiencing of her work.

  10. says:

    This is an odd little book with a lot of unanswered questions at the end of it It s a bit out there for magical realism, but I m not sure what else to call it Calamity starts the book by burying her father In the aftermath of the funeral, she suddenly hits menopause, but that brings back an ability from her childhood, amplified and strange She can find lost things, but now it works a lot differently than it used to As her new old skill returns, things get stranger An old island legend mixes with an older one from elsewhere, and Calamity isn t prepared when something else new and strange comes into her life How that works out, and whether or not Calamity is imagining at least some of this, is an odd tale Making her life complicated is two old friends from school coming back into her life for very different reasons, a handsome stranger she meets on the beach, an apparently magical orchard, and a mystery from her childhood involving her parents, not to mention a very conflicted relationship with her daughter I wanted to like this book than I did Honestly, Calamity herself is part of why I didn t She s hard to like, and has a serious issue with a particular minority that really kept getting me irritated She s also just plain disagreeable a lot of the time It might make her realistic, but not any likable Two legends seem to blur here, and I m never clear on why There s an election and some potential local corruption in the background, but I guess that s just for color And I feel bad for the bemused man trying to keep track of seals at his zoo Decent read, but could have been better.

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