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The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane
Literary fiction

The Half Moon

Repeat author

Mary Beth Keane is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Ask Again, Yes.

by Mary Beth Keane

Quick take

A husband drowning in debt and a wife grappling with infertility have their relationship tested during a winter storm.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LoveTriangle

    Love triangle

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SuburbanDrama

    Suburban drama


Malcolm Gephardt, handsome and gregarious longtime bartender at the Half Moon, has always dreamed of owning a bar. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches to buy the place. He sees unquantifiable magic and potential in the Half Moon and hopes to transform it into a bigger success, but struggles to stay afloat.

His smart and confident wife, Jess, has devoted herself to her law career. After years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. Like Malcolm, she feels her youth beginning to slip away and wonders how to reshape her future.

Award-winning author Mary Beth Keane’s new novel takes place over the course of one week when Malcolm learns shocking news about Jess, a patron of the bar goes missing, and a blizzard hits the town of Gillam, trapping everyone in place. With a deft eye and generous spirit, Keane explores the disappointments and unexpected consolations of midlife, the many forms forgiveness can take, the complicated intimacy of small-town living, and what it means to be a family.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Half Moon.

Why I love it

I love a novel with a compressed time frame; it always makes for a heightened sense of drama and tension. The Half Moon takes place over the course of a single tumultuous week of a cracked marriage. It’s a novel imbued with an electric undercurrent that had me flipping rapidly, totally immersed through its pages.

At the heart of this story are Malcolm and Jess, a recently separated married couple grappling with some major life hurdles. Malcolm has transitioned from being the longtime manager to newly minted owner of a small town bar, the Half Moon. But in order to buy the bar, Malcolm took on serious debt from a not entirely trustworthy source, and bills are starting to pile up. Jess, on the other hand, has been grappling with infertility and her evaporating dreams of motherhood after another failed round of IVF. This on top of her demanding job as a New York City corporate lawyer. Their story movingly asks: how much pain and hurt can a relationship carry before it founders?

Mary Beth Keane is a masterful chronicler of the human heart and the messy, moving dynamics of family. The Half Moon is a must read. You will come away from it emotional, a little raw, and reminded that where there is love present, pockets of hope can always be found.

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Member ratings (7,149)

  • Brenda K.

    Marathon, WI

    I never read the description wasn’t sure where this was going - it was a well written story about life. The up’s, the down’s and the in between’s and how you chose to make it work-you choose 4-ever.

  • Elida L.

    Union Grove, WI

    2nd book I’ve read from this author and it was exceptional. Described all the ups and downs of relationships. The things not said and the obstacles that come in marriage. Malcolm & Jess are like us!

  • Laura K.

    McLean, VA

    What a great book! I love the way the author writes, the way she unspools the story. The character development is incredible. The story engaging. It’s satisfying on so many levels. Loved every page!

  • Morgan Z.

    Fordyce, NE

    Jess & Malcolm are great characters! I enjoyed this book, but I mostly like it, due to Jess’s infertility issues like myself. A book of putting closure on their current life & choosing a new journey!

  • Andrea P.

    Richmond, TX

    A nuanced portrait of a marriage. Both characters are flawed, but I could understand their sides. I finished this book in less than 24 hours and liked it's hopeful ending. Life really is pretty simple