Tyndale House Publishers
Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent is a lesson about hatred overcoming the ability to love and the power of God’s love to overwhelm such hatred. Set in rural Virginia in the late 1930’s, the community is still locked in the grip of racism. Jessilyn Lassiter, the main character, is caught between God-fearing family and friends and her own resounding anger at God and the crimes He seems to have allowed. The novel’s central focus is the emotional battle between the love of God and the love of family, and the hatred that keeps Jessilyn from enjoying both.
This book tells the story from the perspective of Christians who are actively opposed to racism, giving the story unexpected freshness that separates it from most other racism-related books. Valent also succeeds in contrasting the main family’s beliefs and lifestyle with those of the Ku-Klux-Klan-infested community. She even analyzes the reasons and emotions behind the prevalent hatred toward non-whites. This gives the characters a viewpoint that contrasts greatly with the usual these-people-are-bad and these-people-are-good books that deal with this historical time period. This divided community and its emotions come to one dramatic climax when the main characters find their dear Negro friend lynched on a tree. The tragic loss is connected well with the sacrifice of our Savior, providing an important and greatly-needed spiritual moment in the book.
Whereas the story delves fairly deep into the racial and social situation of the time, the book is at its core a love story. The first half of the book deals almost exclusively with the relationship problems between Jessie and the young carpenter who has caught her eye, and the remainder is characterized by the relationship of her black “sister,” Gemma. Jessie, after reaching out to the carpenter and starting a relationship with him, is suddenly bombarded with the racial tension in her community when a black doctor comes to town, defying the community’s definition of a black’s “proper place.” As more and more atrocities occur, Jessie is left with nothing but the bitterness and anger and hatred that grow more and more similar to that of the Klan she despises. In time, that hatred blocks her ability to love her family, friends, Gemma, and even this boy whom she has grown to care for so much.
The tale proves that God’s love isn’t just a nice addition or even a “crutch” to life, but that He is needed in order to live at all. God is shown to be a salvation from the hatred of the racist society and an active force in “seeking and saving what was lost” (Luke 19:10). These characters are surrounded by this interesting and complex community, which weaves many characters together without getting choked by too many names and details. Throughout the book, one of the most interesting relationships – and contrasts – of the characters is that of Jessie and Gemma. Both are essentially reared in the same way with the same family and friends around them, and both go through very similar experiences throughout the book. However, while Gemma is able to walk through ordeals with God at her side, Jessie stands alone. It is interesting to watch as the child without God collapses under the same trials as someone who is strengthened by them.
Growing up in the South, I’ve read many books and stories concerning racism and its effects on society, but I am happy to say that Valent’s book delivers an impressive new Christian angle I’ve never seen before. Whereas the characters do, at times, play into stereotypes, the perspective delivers enough balance to give the book plenty of originality. The only recommendation I can make is to go into this novel expecting a typical romance between a boy and a girl, and then you can be surprised when the love comes from a boy, a girl, friends, family, and God. – Hannah McMullen, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Jessilyn Lassiter no longer has to convince people she’s not a child. Having just turned 19 in the summer of 1938, her love for Luke Talley has never been more real. And Luke is finally beginning to care for her in the way she’s always dreamed of. But their budding romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett—a young, black doctor—comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that has been simmering just beneath the town’s surface. The tension starts to bubble over when Jessie’s elderly neighbor Miss Cleta becomes the first white townsperson to accept Tal’s treatment. And when a young black man is lynched, Calloway is brought to its knees once again as Jessilyn realizes that her anger can make her heart as full of hate as the klan members who have terrorized her town and her family.