The (fictional) story behind Goodnight Moon is moving

The (fictional) story behind Goodnight Moon is moving


Title: Goodnight June
Author: Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume
Price: $16, $7.99 (paperback, kindle), 320 pgs.
ISBN: 0142180211

We've all read and adored the 1947 childhood classic, Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown; but have any of us ever stopped to imagine the circumstances that might have inspired such a poignant story? Why, for example, is the main character a bunny; why does his mush go uneaten; and why is the story set in a forest-green room?

Sarah Jio — accomplished author of six internationally acclaimed novels including the Library Journal Best Book of 2011, The Violets of March — tackles these questions in her for-adults novel, Goodnight June.

The novel follows the somewhat tired plot scheme of big-time New York banker, June Anderson, returning to her hometown, Seattle, to settle her late great-aunt Ruby's estate (which includes her beloved bookstore, Bluebird Books) only to discover that her successful banking career is unfulfilling, and you'll never guess what she chooses to do about it… OK, maybe you will.

The story is all too familiar, a la The Family Man (2000), Sweet Home Alabama (2002) and The Devil Wears Prada (2003), but Jio's approach to the returning 'Prodigal Son' trope is unique in that, not only does she combine stories of self-realization and romance (duh!), she also incorporates elements of fractured families and even mystery. For, what really draws June into caring about the fate of her great-aunt's bookstore is the letters that her aunt Ruby has strategically hidden throughout the store between herself and her close friend, Margaret Wise Brown. These letters enhance the historical value of the bookstore and also advise June on her upcoming, life-changing decisions from the grave.

Perhaps this reviewer simply read Jio's latest novel at a sensitive time in which I am leaving an unsatisfying career to pursue a more satisfying one, or perhaps I am easily charmed by authors whose overall message supports the advancing of small businesses and the arts over unharnessed capitalism, but most likely, Jio successfully and meaningfully incorporates a familiar narrative in order to remind us, the readers, to reflect on what really matters in this life. And that she offers a somewhat incredible background story to the cherished children's book, Goodnight Moon, only enhances the novel's appeal.