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Moonpie and Ivy
by Barbara O'Connor

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001
$16.00 hardcover
152 pages

Dust jacket illustration by Michelle Chang; used with permission of FSG. "Dear Mama, I hate you. Love, Pearl."

This is the first of many postcards Pearl writes after her mother Ruby leaves her at Aunt Ivy's house. She can't mail them, though. No one knows where Ruby went, and anyway Pearl can't decide if she wants Ruby to come back or to stay away forever.

Darwood, Georgia, where Aunt Ivy still lives in the same house where she and Ruby grew up, is not much to look at: tired, dusty, run-down and worn-out. The only other kid around is Moonpie, a strange, pale boy who hangs around Ivy's, sometimes doing odd jobs, sometimes coming just for cookies. There seems little to do here but wait.

And in the shadow of that waiting the novel happens. Barbara O'Connor thoughtfully explores relationships and family and the emotional bonds that create them. O'Connor makes it easy for us to dislike Pearl's mother, but Ruby is, of course, all Pearl has ever known. Now Pearl suddenly has a glimpse of a different kind of family dynamic. She envies the easy friendship Moonpie and Ivy have, but she pretends to scorn any overtures they make to her. Through Pearl's eyes we know she is not bad; she is just a kid caught in an unhappy situation and trying to exert control – any control – over something else in her environment. Pearl may not understand much of this, but even she recognizes symbolism in some of her actions. By the time she begins to accept the love and friendship Ivy and Moonpie offer, Ruby is back. O'Connor provides no magically happy ending for Moonpie and Ivy, but it is a hopeful one.

Dust jacket illustration by Michelle Chang; used with permission of FSG.

Reviewed by Wendy Morris. © 2001 by Wendy Morris

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