Half Moon Lake (Penguin Random House, 2019)

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'I was utterly captivated. The writing is sublime and richly layered. The prose is accessible, yet at the same time sophisticated and extremely evocative. The characters are so well drawn I could instantly visualise each one, and I was with them every step of the way.

Beverley Cousins, Fiction Publisher,
Penguin Random House Australia


On a summer’s day in southern Louisiana, 1913, Sonny Davenport wanders away from his family’s vacation home at Half Moon Lake and doesn’t come back.

John Henry and Mary Davenport search for their child across the state and throughout the South. John Henry offers an enormous reward for Sonny’s return. Mary turns to spiritualists and occultists. Tom McCabe, a reporter at The St. Landry Clarion, becomes unhealthily attached to Mary and John Henry. After years of crushing disappointments following hope, Sonny is found with a peddler in Alabama. But the Davenports’ joy at finding their son is cut short when another woman, unwed domestic worker Grace Mill, claims the boy is hers.

As the two mothers fight to claim the child, people choose sides, testing loyalties, the notion of truth, and the meaning of the word family.

 Half Moon Lake is a work of fiction. There is, however, a fascinating true story that inspired the novel – that of American boy Bobby Dunbar. Reporter Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutright tell that story in A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping that Haunted a Nation (Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc, 2012). Should the reader be interested in truth rather than fiction I strongly recommend McThenia’s and Dunbar Cutright’s detailed and compassionate telling of it.