Cox does it again. She grabs the reader by the poo-poo by page two and then slowly and deliciously unravels a complex tale of family and community in the context of small-town Tennessee. The Slow Moon begins with the kind of party many American teenagers attended–someone’s parents are out of town and kids converge, the social machine greased with alcohol and whispers of drugs alongside the natural impetus of youthful sexuality. Crow and Sophie leave the party, having predetermined that tonight is “the night.” Sophie is adventurous and takes the lead, telling Crow to lie down on the leaves and removing her own clothes. Nature progresses a little too far before the responsible bell goes off and Crow has to run back to his car, parked a distance from the house to fool the neighbors (who are, as always, assumed too silly to realize their neighbors’ house is full of people and noise despite the lack of cars in the driveway). From there, it all goes wrong. Crow dashes off in his underwear and is detained when some young women park next to his car and chat. When he returns to Sophie, she is blooded and bruised and his response, to flee, reveals that he has not yet made it to manhood, despite the DNA evidence left in her body.
The remainder of the novel traces Crow’s experience of going to trial, Sophie’s experience of living with gang rape in the months following, and the search for the culprits as the town struggles to live with the fact that we can’t tell by looking who the good guys and who the bad guys really are.
This is a tough novel to end as a writer, I assume. How do you end the story of coping with gang rape? How do you end a story of betrayal that is revealed only at the end? The slow unraveling makes the novel compelling, but leaves Cox closing with a scene a little too sweet to seem likely. Perhaps this comes from the fact that, despite the novel’s opening with the gang rape of Sophie, she is not the main story line. Cox’s focus is on the boys and their mothers and even Sophie’s mother. Sophie is the narrative device around whom the story is built, which ends up putting the reader in the place of the rapists: using Sophie to fulfill our own needs without considering her as a fully-developed person whose life will be shattered by our rough intrusions and leaves Cox wanting to reassure us that it’s all ok when she needed to do the opposite.