Monday, November 9, 2009

"The Last Will of Moira Leahy"

Therese Walsh is a cofounder of the blog She lives in upstate New York, with her husband, two children, a cat, and a bouncy Jack Russell named Kismet.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Last Will of Moira Leahy, her first novel, and reported the following:
Deep down, though she’d loathe admitting it—especially to herself—Maeve Leahy misses her old life. She misses her identical twin, she misses her music, she misses her former dreams of travel and fame. She lives a busy and isolated life now as a workaholic professor, but every once in a while something tweaks at her memories and she just can’t help her response. We see this on page 69, as she first interacts with some of her students in the hall of the foreign languages department, and then is made to notice pictures of exotic locales by her father there.
“Hello,” I called back. Jordan Somers and—wouldn’t you know—Ned Baker stood beside a list of final grades. Jordan should be pleased with his standing, though Ned, the troublemaker, might not be. Still, he didn’t look upset; he smiled at my dad and me.

“Going away for break, Doc?” Ned asked, glancing with fleeting interest at the keris in my father’s hand.

“Not me. You?”

“Going to Cancun.” He howled the last like wolf-song, his cheeks flushed and hair a curtain over his eyes. Ian came strongly to mind.

“And you, Jordan?” I said. “Big plans?”

“Cancun, too. We’re going to”—he paused, looked meaningfully at Ned—“practice our Spanish.” They laughed, smacked hands and headed down the hall. “See ya!”

“Have fun,” I said as we passed one another.

“Seem like nice boys,” my father said.

“Do they? I think their practice starts and ends with Dos Equis, but maybe I’m wrong.”


“It’s a beer, Dad.”

“Right, right. I think I’ve heard of it,” he said. Dad was a Moosehead man, through and through.

I stalled to paw through my bag. I refused to believe I’d left my keys in the car, that I was that far gone.

“Nice posters,” he said. “Sure sets the atmosphere.”

I continued rummaging blindly as I looked up at the artwork and photos in the hall. A woman pinned clothes on a line from a high window; boys stood barelegged in a fountain; a mandolin player’s likeness covered brick somewhere in Vieux Lille. Sometimes these scenes made me itch with longing for all my old dreams, but only one piece bothered me consistently: a sepia print of a woman cowered over a desk as owls and bats swooped low behind her. The desk bore the words El sueño de la razón produce monstrous (The sleep of reason brings forth monsters). I’d removed the picture once, but Will Holmes, the chair of my department and a closet philosopher, insisted it remain. I’d stood my ground. “The woman seems tortured.”

“It’s a masterpiece,” he’d said. “And that’s not a woman.”

I stared at what looked to me like a skirt and bare woman’s legs as he speculated…

(p. 70)

...over the work's meaning. "What if dreams and reason aren't so different and monsters ride the line between the worlds?"

It might've made for fascinating debate, but I'd never be in the mood to discuss dream monsters or the line between the worlds. It still looked like a woman to me.
The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a cross-genre novel—women’s fiction with elements of psychological suspense, mystery, family saga, romance and mythical realism. It would be difficult to find a single page that captures the full flavor of the story, but page 69 isn’t bad. The brief interaction between Maeve and her students later links in with the mystery plot; and her disturbed reflection on El sueño de la razón produce monstrous gives us a glimpse of this woman’s underground, her subconscious.

Now if you’d asked me about page 165…
Read an excerpt from The Last Will of Moira Leahy, and learn more about the book and author at Therese Walsh's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue