Review: Once in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Tundra Books
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: n/a
A gun in a lake. A Missing mother. Ana is on the run. But from who?

Ana is not your typical teenager. She grew up in a tiny Mennonite colony in Bolivia, and her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now Ana and her father have also fled, and Ana doesn’t know why. She only knows that something was amiss in their tight-knit community. Arriving in Toronto, Ana has to fend for herself in this alien environment, completely isolated in a big city with no help and no idea where to even begin. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the myriad unspoken codes and rules. She is befriended by a teacher. She goes to the library, the mall, parties. And all the while, she searches for the mother who left so long ago, and tries to understand her father—also a stranger in a strange land, with secrets of his own.

Once in a Town Called Moth intrigued me--a girl who moved from a Mennonite town in Bolivia to Toronto with her dad and she had to navigate through high school all the while looking for her missing mom who mysteriously disappeared when she was younger. While I didn't end up loving the novel, I still thought it was an interesting read.
One reason why Once in a Town Called Moth didn't quite work out for me, despite the very intriguing premise, was the slow pacing in the beginning. The story didn't grab me at first and I had to kind of make myself pick it up. I also wasn't the biggest fan of how the story alternates between Colony Felicidad (the Mennonite town in Bolivia Ana and her father were from) and Toronto. The Colony Felicidad chapters were told in Ana's first person point of view. These chapters were Ana's memories of the past. The Toronto chapters were told in Ana's third person point of view in the present time period. It took me a while to get used to the dual time periods and Ana's switching point of views, which felt jarring at times. Also, the first 50 pages or so, I had it in my head that the story was set in the 60s or 70s, and I constantly had to remind myself that the story is set in the present time--this was because we are seeing things through Ana's eyes and since she grew up in an isolated Mennonite town she had zero experiences with modern technology and conveniences. Through her perspective, it felt like the novel was set in the 60s at first. I did appreciate the fact that the novel is set in Canada and Bolivia--I found it refreshing and different since a lot of the novels I read is set in the US.

Ana felt alone and confused and lost in the big city--totally different from the small Mennonite town she came from. Her dad loves her but he's not an affectionate man, and she had to keep house while he goes out and works, which is not easy for a 14-year-old girl. Then, she started high school, which was a whole other world. She wasn't used to going to different classes with different teachers and having so many classmates when her whole life school was a one room building with with a small group of kids of all ages and always the same one teacher teaching everyone. She was able to quickly adapt and assimilate to her surroundings, though, especially after she made a friend in Suvi, a girl from her neighborhood. I did like Ana's character and could relate to her experiences of having to navigate through a new environment, but I didn't quite connect with her. 

The thing that kept me reading was the mystery of Ana's mom. I wanted to know what happened to her and was eager to know all the answers. Unfortunately, not all of my questions were answered in the end. After a slow paced beginning, things started happening quickly towards the end and then it just ended pretty abruptly.

Once in a Town Called Moth ended up being just an okay read for me. It wasn't a bad book, but it didn't quite grab me either. So, in my rating scale it fell in the middle--I liked it but I didn't love it. It was a quiet, kind of low-key novel, slow paced for the most part and nothing about it really sparked for me. I did enjoy the mystery but not everything was answered in the end. One thing I did really appreciate was learning more about the Mennonites (which I knew nothing about before reading this book), so that was a plus. And while I did like Ana's character, I couldn't quite connect with her all the way. If you enjoy coming of age stories with a little mystery set somewhere other than the US (in this case, Candada and Bolivia), Once in a Town Called Moth might be worth looking into and picking up.

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