Synopsis from the back cover:
It was a night of laughter and celebration. But when John dies in a dreadful accident, his girlfriend Emma is plunged into despair. She loved John more than life itself – and now death has taken him from her. She feels nothing, she has lost everything, her world spins out of control. Or so she thinks. For Emma has friends – good friends who rally round. But the memory of that night returns to haunt each of them in different and trying ways. And Emma knows that if she is ever to laugh at life again, or find the love she once had, she will have to let go of the man she thought she couldn’t live without. She must let go and trust her heart.
Pack Up The Moon never directly refers to the poem by W. H. Auden featuring this line about the death of a loved one. Anyone who suspects this reference however, will be immediately offered a taste of what can be found in this novel – a kind of lamentation for somebody who was so wholly your world that it seems senseless to suggest you could continue without them. But that is not all this book is about. It is more particularly focused on the living that does, in fact, remain to be done no matter what, and the joy that can be found with time. The whole novel is constructed with a sense of retrospection and nostalgia. At times it felt like reading a memoir, and upon reading the ending I realised this feeling serves as a testament to the writing ability of the author. It includes a short bio about the author’s own life on the cover – and you can see how it comes into play. The rawest moments of heartfelt emotion are so sincere they cannot but be drawn directly from her own experiences, thus touching the reader on a most basic human level.
Readers will know from the outset that John dies – it says so in the synopsis on the back cover – so the challenge that remains for the author is to convey a character whose death the reader will mourn after only a precious few chapters knowing him. She succeeds. Not because of the particular person John was, but because of the emotion with which he is conveyed – the sheer contentment inspired by his very presence in Emma’s life and the jarring pain of his being ripped out of it. A similar sense of emotion-fuelled characterisation continues throughout the novel – McPartlin doesn’t overlook anybody, and I think it is more the secondary characters which give the novel it’s emotional edge. While I didn’t specifically relate to any of the characters themselves, in reading about them there is a sense of familiarity, like catching a glimpse of an old friend just for a moment. Doreen is every wise old neighbour and every second mum in the world all at once, Declan is every cheeky student we have taught, or gone to school with, dated or even been ourselves at some point in our lives. Despite the heart-breaking beginning, the novel as a whole is an uplifting release from the emotions that burden us all.
On it’s most basic level however, this novel is about the inherent tension between the opposing emotions we experience in the acceptance of loss, the crippling sense of missing someone who isn’t coming back; the tension between needing to be alone and being lonely – the lines between what we want to indulge in and the basic need to proceed. The author translates the reconciliation between emotions into a language which any reader can understand and apply within their own lives. Ultimately this serves to provide a sense of healing, which is perhaps what I liked best about this book. There is real happiness, real sorrow, drama, disappointment, and hope but above all a sense of learning to live life. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – but you’ll close it’s covers feeling satisfied and at peace with the difficult subject matter presented in it’s pages; with tears in your eyes but a smile on your face.