Moon Over Alcatraz by Patricia Yager Delagrange
Reviewed By: Sheri de Grom
I clicked the pages with hunger as I read Moon Over Alcatraz, the work of debut author Patricia Yager Delagrange. Just when I thought I’d find a good place to stop, she’d drop a hook sentence and I had to keep reading.
Moon Over Alcatraz is the first e-book I’ve reviewed. My only drawback in reading electronically is that I read too fast and often miss subtle nuances that can make a novel a first-rate read, when it would be wondrous if I’d slow down and take the time to reread well-crafted sentences.
When reading a book I’m reviewing, I have a highlighter in hand and make comments to myself in the margins. It’s too much trouble to do that while reading an e-book. On the other hand, I don’t want to be without e-books. As a reviewer, they have their drawbacks.
Moon Over Alcatraz opens as Brandy is giving birth, but something’s wrong. Why? Her husband, Weston, is with Brandy in the delivery room.
. . . [A deafening silence splintered through the room] . .
Brandy is in a deep depression and Weston battles his own lonely sorrow. She’s a writer and Weston, a structural engineer on the San Francisco Bay Bridge project.
Brandy finds comfort in her friend Cecelia from next door. They have coffee and muffins together as often as possible. Cecelia is the only person Brandy is able to confide in about her inability to have continuing sexual relations with Weston. Each time he touches her, she flashbacks to her dead baby.
A few weeks later, Weston comes home from work and tells Brandy the boss wants him to go back East to help with the initial phase of building a bridge. Weston tells Brandy he doesn’t feel right leaving her alone for the four to five months the job requires, but the money is right. Perhaps, even more important, Weston wants a wife and not a roommate.
The couple promises to talk frequently once he settles into his job. Brandy doesn’t expect she’ll need to track him down.
Once when Weston calls, she hears him crying and repeating her name over and over. Weston tells Brandy he’s sorry, oh so sorry.
But what for? The reader doesn’t know.
At the end of the chapter, we have a hook to our question of what for. Brandy calls Weston’s office and discovers he now has a private secretary and she’s coy with Brandy.
I always love a read when I want to tell the characters, “Hey, get over it. You have a life to live.”
By the end of Chapter Five, I want to ask Brandy, “What are you doing other than exercise to cope with your grief?” And, “Weston, what’s going on with you and that new secretary? Does she provide you what your wife can’t?”
I’m invested in the characters in the first few pages of Patricia Yager Delagrange’s novel, Moon Over Alcatraz. I want them to be happy. But, they can’t be and I’m only at the end of Chapter Five.
Turning pages of the newspaper, she notices the well-dressed man and he’s none other than Edward, a high school classmate. Edward’s now a well-respected criminal defense attorney and ever so handsome.
Brandy and Weston continue their shouting matches with each phone call. Nothing is resolved.
As chance has it, Edward is at Peet’s Coffee the next time Brandy stops in after a run. She’s vulnerable after just finishing another shouting match with Weston. Edwards’s hand on hers takes the place of the hug she needs.
Edward invites Brandy to his house for dinner the following evening.
. . . [Not thinking of the past or the future, my mind floated in the inexplicable present, my only awareness the physical heat spreading through every part of me.”] . . .
Brandy didn’t want to talk with Weston but he calls the following morning to tell her he’ll be home for the Labor Day weekend. The very weekend he previously told Brandy that he had to work.
Brandy promises herself she will admit to her one-night stand. . . . [I have to deal with the ramifications of telling Weston about Edward, and hopefully he’d understand.] . . .
Patricia Yager Delagrange leaves the reader with a moral dilemma. Brandy’s passion is reignited the night she’s with Edward and now Weston is thrilled with the new Brandy.
Brandy and Weston have a wonderful long weekend together but suddenly she’s so tired she has a hard time doing her normal activities. Brandy’s not only tired but thinks she has a bad case of vertigo. Christmas is upon her and Weston needs to be picked up at the airport.
Brandy thinks about how she feels and wonders if she might be pregnant. After all, she and Weston had a wonderful time reconnecting when he was home over the Labor Day weekend. She couldn’t cope with the suspense any longer and picked up a pregnancy test kit. On Christmas she surprises Weston with the announcement that they are pregnant. After the loss of their daughter, at birth, they are joyous.
Brandy confirms her pregnancy with her doctor in January, and counts back four months and comes up with Labor Day weekend for when she got pregnant.
Weston completes his job on the East Coast and returns home. Brandy arrives at the San Francisco airport to pick him up. To her surprise, his secretary Carol is with him and she’s to continue working for him.
Weston is home permanently and Brandy won’t let herself go on without telling him about her one-night stand with Edward. Once again the reader is pulled into a moral dilemma.
Would you tell? Do you want Brandy to tell Weston what she did? What about what we think Weston has done? The moral premise is important and it’s expertly presented throughout Ms. Yager Delagrange’s novel.
. . . [I couldn’t do this again without telling him. The guilt overwhelmed me. “Can we talk.”] . . .
Brandy and Weston stop at a Starbucks one afternoon, Brandy is in her seventh month, and Edward walks in.
. . . [“Brandy? Is that you?”] . . .
. . . [Reeling from this surreal situation, shocked to be in the same room with Edward and my husband, I didn’t know what I could say that would sound normal. I mentally gave myself a shake. “I’m okay, West,” I answered, placing a proprietary hand on his forearm with a smile.] . . .
The conversation continues until Brandy wants to leave before they finish their drinks. She tells Weston she isn’t feeling well and previously Weston told Edward that Brandy is seven months pregnant.
. . . [Weston took hold of my arm, helping me to my feet. “Sure.” He gathered up the cups and napkins, while I raced to the door. Edward pushed it open for me to exit ahead of him.]
. . . [When I reached the edge of the sidewalk he gently took hold of my arm and turned me toward him. “Whose baby is it, Brandy? Mine or Weston’s?”]
So much for Brandy thinking she’d never see Edward again. He’d moved to Washington State to a branch office but didn’t like all the rain and now he’s back in Alameda, CA—the city where Brandy lives and where they met.
The following Monday, one week after seeing the doctor who performed the test, Brandy receives the results. The laboratory confirms Edward is the baby’s daddy and not Brandy’s husband, Weston.
. . . [Now that I was aware of the truth, I couldn’t dodge what needed to be done. Weston first, then Edward. I’d deal with it in that order. As soon as possible. I didn’t have much time. Edward would begin calling me soon. That meant I’d have to confront Weston immediately.]. . .
Brandy faces one tough decision after another and the author doesn’t provide easy solutions. I couldn’t be a complacent reader.
All of the above occurred in the first forty-five pages of Moon Over Alcatraz. Imagine if you will, how much angst Ms. Yager Delagrange presents in the remaining novel.
I’m looking forward to additional reads from this author and believe with her enthusiasm for both storytelling and marketing, hers is a name to watch.