“Seems that’s what I was always doing now — chasing the moon, trying to catch the high, trying to hold on to it. Trying to step deep into it. And disappear.” p. 123
Laurel Daneau has experienced great loss. At a young age she lost her mother and her grandmother to a devastating storm. She lost her home and a big chunk of her heart. A few years later, Laurel and her family (father and brother) move to Iowa hoping to make a fresh start. She joins the cheerleading squad, makes a new best friend, and falls for basketball co-captain T-Boom. Things are looking up, at least from the outside, until T-Boom introduces Laurel to meth (which she calls moon). Soon her attraction to T-Boom is overshadowed by her desire for the moon. As she gets pulled in by the euphoric effects of meth use, she loses herself in the drug, damaging both her body and her connections with those who love her the most. Living on the streets, she meets Moses, a gay street artist who paints memorial murals of loved ones lost too soon. Will Laurel take the path of recovery, dealing with her addiction and her sadness, or will she continue down the road of meth-addiction, numbing herself from the pain, and end up as yet another one of Moses’ mural subjects?
“Kaylee says, Write an elegy to the past…and move on. She says it’s all about moving on.” xvi
The story starts out with a hopeful Laurel – a Laurel who is heading down the road we as readers hope she will continue on long past our time with her – and this sets the tone for the book. While Laurel’s story is filled with sadness and loss, Woodson always gives us hope. Laurel is so lost in her heartbreak and her addiction, that this is almost all that we see of her. We feel her grief and the sense of relief that drug use affords her, and we also see how much she loses and the painful and dangerous path that meth use takes her down.
Woodson’s writing is beautiful as usual. Beneath a Meth Moon is an elegy, filled with sorrow and remembrance. The novel hops around in time from Laurel’s childhood memories before the storm to her recovery from addiction, reminding the reader that depression and addiction are not problems that are simply solved at the end of a novel, but issues that one must continually work on. In a way this is a story about drug addiction, but it’s really more about loss. Woodson doesn’t dwell on the lifestyle, the logistics, or the physical deterioration caused by drug use, though these are touched upon. Instead she focuses in on the emotional impact of both losing loved ones and losing oneself.