Sometime last year, my sister sent me Pack Up The Moon by Anna McPartlin, and it sat on my shelf for months. I read the back of the book a long time ago and mentioned in an offhand sort of way that it sounded interesting, and I wanted to read it sometime. When I read the back cover for the second time, it still piqued my interest, but I was busy, hurried and in absolutely no mood to read about someone dying.
A few weeks ago, I became determined to at least start it. If I gave it a fair shot and then set it down, I wouldn’t feel bad. If I returned it without even cracking the spine, the postage to send it back and forth from Nebraska to Virginia would be completely wasted.
Thankfully, I was instantly taken by the book.
The story centers around Emma, a Dublin native who at the beginning of the book has everything she could ever want: great friends, a satisfying job, wonderful family and an amazing fiance. But within the first five minutes of reading (or if you just happen to read the back of the book…), the fiance dies tragically.
The book was extremely well written, and I appreciated McPartlin’s honesty about how much time it takes to heal. Each of Emma’s close friends changed after John’s death in very different ways, and I appreciated seeing each of their sides to the story, all through Emma’s eyes. In particular, Noel, Emma’s brother, was a fascinating character. Not only does the reader see the exterior, calm, center, focused, confident man, but you also see the devastation happening beneath the surface. I could easily identify with that conflict of emotions because it’s something I struggle with a lot.
I certainly recommend Pack Up The Moon, if for no other reason than a combination of a good laugh and a good cry all in one go. I will admit to skipping over some of the more contemplative sections in the second half of the book. McPartlin had an occasional rant that left me bored, but if you just flip through to the next page, she’s often back with the action of the story.
The poem by W.H. Auden that inspired the title:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.