Title: The Moment
Author: Douglas Kennedy
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine, in touch only with his daughter and still trying to recover from the end of a long marriage, his solitude is disrupted one wintry morning by the arrival of a box that is postmarked Berlin. The name on the box—Dussmann—unsettles him completely, for it belongs to the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin at a time when the city was cleaved in two and personal and political allegiances were frequently haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.
Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless is forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person and in the process relive those months in Berlin when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann, the woman to whom he lost his heart, was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow that gradually rewrote both their destinies.”
Thoughts: How do you know those moments that will change your life forever? How do you recognize them for what they are? If you do recognize them, how do you proceed, knowing that no matter what you do, your life will never be the same? Douglas Kennedy’s The Moment is a beautifully written exploration of just that, as Thomas Nesbitt reminisces on his life-changing moment many years ago in divided Berlin, his regret over not recognizing it for what it was, and the impact of it on the rest of his life. Filled with love and loss, intrigue and friendship, pain and longing, The Moment is a novel that leaves one breathless and introspective on his or her own life.
The backdrop of The Moment is truly remarkable, as it uncovers divided Berlin at the height of the Cold War. The constant threat of betrayal undercut by the tense atmosphere of two ideologically opposite cultures creates a setting that is rife with suspicion and an inability to determine the truth from fiction. Not only does Thomas struggle in this unique atmosphere, the reader is left in a similar fog as he or she questions the reliability of Thomas as a narrator. It’s an unsettling feeling for the reader as he or she is forced to deal with Thomas’ own questions while handling his or her own questions. For those who may not remember the Cold War and the us versus them mentality that was so pervasive at that time, The Moment is great historically, as Thomas faces the ugliness of The Wall and everything for which it stands while exploring two very different Berlins.
As half of the novel is Thomas’ memories, the rest of the novel is Thomas dealing with the consequences of his actions. So much of what provides The Moment with its power is this idea of moving forward while remaining haunted by one’s past decisions. Everyone faces that one pivotal moment in one’s life that changes its trajectory forever. While one may not have experienced Thomas’ sense of loss and betrayal, we have all experienced those “what if” questions that occur after such moments. This allows the reader to commiserate with Thomas’ pain while reflecting on one’s own.
The Moment is such a potent novel, full of emotion and larger-than-life characters. The backdrop mirrors the characters in its starkness. Douglas Kennedy has recreated Berlin in all its divisiveness, bringing back the grayness of the East that was in such direct contrast to the lushness and excess of the West. The Moment is one of those novels which the reader finishes and then must sit and just reflect. It is not a novel that allows a reader to move on to something different but reminds one that one needs to take time to recognize his or her own moments for what they are, live in them and move on as best as one can. When life seems to be moving faster than information can travel across the Internet, this is something for which everyone needs a reminder.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my e-galley!