I don’t think I’ve ever read another book quite like this one, and I’m not sure I ever will again. It is a unique ride from start to finish and I think it will stick with me for a while.

About the Book

Many stories have been written about the sixties, the decade of the Moon Race, and this literary novel, serious at its core but whimsical in its prose, takes a unique look at the fate of the moon during that decade.

Samuel Thwaite is looking for a place to put his stamp on. He chooses Goodmews, a laid-back American town known for its bright moon, and persuades the residents to let him establish the world’s first Moon Centre.

NASA funds the Centre, and while Goodmews thrives, Thwaite becomes obsessed with achieving something grander, that will last forever. He enlists a rogue NASA engineer, and together they develop a plan. They will use a moon rocket to spread paint over a giant crater so the moon will no longer look white.

By chance, Banno, the Moon Centre guard, discovers the plan. He knows he should tell someone, but he has signed NASA’s oath of secrecy and prides himself on keeping his word.

My Thoughts

They say things happen in threes, and weirdly, in the past month, this is the third book I’ve read that leaned heavily into music and lyrics. Weirdly, they all had a historical element ranging from the 60s and 70s to the early 2000s. As a writer, I’m not sure it ever would have occurred to me to use music as a staging and writing device, so I’m impressed and intrigued that so many people have used it recently and done it so well. It brings an interesting element and depth to the characters that I wouldn’t have previously considered. This story features the usual suspects from the sixties from the Beatles to the Stones.

The characters offer a smorgasbord of differences. If you don’t like one – like the easy-to-hate Thwaite, just turn the page and you’ll find someone else to like. Some are amazing – like the loveable Banno, Tris, and Francine. It’s hard to find anything to dislike about them, until a certain point in the story, and then it’s still sort of understandable.

This exercise in literary fiction could also be classified as slice-of-life fiction I believe. Rather than focusing on the science or how the race affects the country, scientists, or politics, it shows how the race to reach the moon is affecting this one small American town. Setting off a chain of events, Sam Thwaite wanders into town and changes everyone’s life for better or worse. Possibly both?

The slight foray into scientific fact was simple enough for the common man to understand. It was clear and precise enough that I wondered if it was accurate. Could we paint the moon if we wanted? It certainly sounded plausible. But, then, so do some of the inventions my 6-year-old comes up with, so, maybe we give it some more thought before rolling out the next probe to make a special moon for pride or Christmas.

I am so grateful to the author and Love Books Tours for including me in this tour and I look forward to reading more by the author!

Who’s It For?

If you enjoy historical fiction with more of a slice-of-life bent, this is a great book for you. It’s centered around the space race, but this isn’t like any other book you’ve ever read about the 60s. The closest comp I can give you is “Forrest Gump,” and even then it’s comparing apples to pomegranates.

Content Warnings: Betrayal, Oath Breaking, Hostile Workplace, Abusive Boss

Question of the Day?

Does your family have any stories/connections to the moon landing? OR Have you ever read any books from the 60s?

About the Author

When the Moon was White is Jeff Probst’s first novel since Bachelor Butterflies (1994). His memoirs include The Isla Vista Bank-burning Story, 2011, and Teaching Shakespeare to Hairdressers: An American Teacher in London, 2014.

Jeff has also had stories, articles and poems published in literary magazines, journals and newspapers in California, South Africa and London. He is American and has lived in London since 1990 with his South African wife.

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