Behind the Moon

City Lights. May 2017. 280p. ISBN 9780872867444. $21.95; pap. ISBN 9780872867369. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780872867376. F
OrangeReviewStarThis latest from National Book Award finalist Bell (after Zig Zag Wanderer) is the story of an illicit teenage camping trip gone awry. Julie and Karyn are supposed to be having a sleepover but are instead on an adventure with Jamal, Marlo, and Sonny. They are in the desert near a large rock outcropping featuring petroglyphs and a narrow cave opening. Under the influence of a mistakenly ingested drug, Julie escapes the unwanted advances of Marlo by retreating, with Jamal's help, into the relative safety of the cave. The story proceeds through a number of alternative retellings. Woven throughout are dreamlike passages involving Paleolithic peoples and totemic animal spirits. Next we meet Julie's birth mother, Marissa, who has come back to the hospital where Julie was born, coincidentally finding her daughter there in a coma after her ordeal in the desert. The last section focuses on Marissa's experiences working with Jamal and a Native American outlaw named Ultimo to unravel the mystery of the cave.
VERDICT Multiple versions and perspectives are pervasive and illustrate the dream space and the story, culminating in a perfect matchup of beginning and ending. Highly recommended for readers who can accept a number of coexisting realities.

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