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Review: The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane

Review: The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane

Editorial note: I received a copy of The Half Moon in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane is an examination of a couple’s rocky journey through marriage.

I’m a big fan of character driven, introspective stories. Oftentimes, this falls under the literary fiction arena. These types of stories truly make you think and reflect. The characters feel so real and drawn out. You might not love the characters, or even want to be friends with them, but you’re curious for where their journey is going.

I thought Mary Beth Keane did a great job of this with her novel, Ask, Again, Yes. The novel is about star-crossed lovers and their extremely complicated family dynamics.

With The Half Moon, this time the author focuses solely on a marriage in crisis. The couple struggles with infertility and money troubles. But I felt they also have a key central issue: a lack of connection. It’s not great when you’re reading a story about a marriage and you’re wondering, why are these two together?

What’s the Story About

Malcolm Gephardt is a handsome and outgoing longtime bartender at the Half Moon. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches funds to buy the place. But as soon as he takes over, he realizes how troubled the bar is and keeps losing money every month.

His wife Jess has a successful law career. But after years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. Both her and Malcolm feel their youth beginning to slip away and wonders what it means for the future.

Malcolm and Jess

So the synopsis is quite appealing, right? But what’s missing is the complete lack of compatibility between Malcolm and Jess. They got married young and very early on in this relationship—still in the exciting, honeymoon phase. However, when that quality dwindles away and the combination of infertility and money issues come to play, tensions are at an all-time high between the two.

And honestly, of course, both of those aspects would cause huge troubles in even the best of relationships. But I didn’t ever get the sense that Malcolm and Jess had a great foundation to start with. I truly felt it was youth and attractiveness that brought them together.

So it’s tough to read this very difficult journey and not root for the couple to get back together. I kept thinking, yeah, maybe you guys would better off if you just divorce.

Lack of Character Development

This brings me to what I feel is the central issue for a literary, introspective story— it really lacked character development. I did not understand a lot of the motivations and actions by either character. There are some things that happen that the author did lay the ground work for but overall, a big question mark for me when it comes to decisions by the characters.

I actually think we needed more about their upbringing and family life. There’s a little hint with Malcolm’s but it doesn’t really go anywhere. I can’t even recall Jess’s background.

I also felt there is a bizarre tone shift about 1/3 left of the novel. This has happened with a couple recent reads and I’m not loving that trend.


All in all, I did find it interesting enough to finish it. There are some aspects that are compelling, for instance, it takes place in a small town and I tend to like those stories. But again, I wasn’t rooting for these two to stay a couple. And that took away from the story for me. After all, it’s hard to read a story about a couple in crisis when you don’t care for them to stay together!

On to the next one.

For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.