Thomas Christopher Greene’s novel Envious Moon tells the story of Anthony Lopes, son of Portuguese immigrants, who lives in a coastal town, Galilee, Rhode Island, where he earns money by fishing. Anthony is smart, but poor. His father was killed on a fishing boat; his mother works hard to provide and while Anthony dreams of a better life, he doesn’t quite know how he’s going to have it.
One day Anthony’s best friend, Victor, tells him something that has the potential to change both boys’ lives forever. Victor sometimes worked for a funeral home and he’d been at a wake on Cross Island. He was alone in the room and he’d lifted the corner of the Persian rug. There – to his amazement – he’d found an envelope, stuffed full of money. Victor tells Anthony that the house is empty and that they should break in and steal the money. Who could it hurt?
Of course, the boys’ plan doesn’t play out in quite the way they expect. Inside the house, Anthony sees a girl:
…a girl surrounded by golden light and wearing a white nightgown. Through the gown I could see the outline of her legs. I could not see her eyes and I could not tell the colour of her hair. But the part of her face that I could see, was more beautiful than any face I had ever seen. her high cheekbones and her full lips and her strong nose. Part of me understood that I should not be considering any of this, that I should just run, but something kept me completely still.
It is a moment that changes Anthony’s life forever.
Greene’s novel begins as an older Anthony contemplates that failed heist and its aftermath. He says, “I confess that I sometimes forget what she looks like.” Whatever tale Anthony is about to tell, the reader knows that it is part of some sort of therapy because this forgetting is considered a good thing by Dr. Mitchell. Every once and a while, we revisit present-day Anthony as he works through the events of his 17th summer.
Anthony is a likeable character. It’s impossible not to care about him as he makes one bad decision after another – each becoming more desperate than the last. Hannah, the girl he loves, is slightly less transparent. Anthony’s motives seem clear, but it is impossible to know how much of their story is motivated by grief.
Envious Moon reminded me a little of Endless Love by Scott Spencer. Love is the one emotion that drives people, especially young people, to reckless behaviour. Greene’s novel captures that love-fueled momentum and propels Anthony, Hannah and the reader on a journey that is both heart-felt and heart-breaking.