The Moon Looked Down
Sophie Heller and her family flee the Nazi regime in 1933, emigrating to the United States from Germany. The family settles in the small farming community of Victory, Illinois, where they own a farm. As anti-German sentiment increases during the early years of World War II, the Hellers are persecuted by a group of local ruffians intent on driving them out of town. One summer night, Sophie witnesses the destruction of the family’s barn, as well as threats against her family, and acts bravely to fight back. Meanwhile, Cole Ambrose returns to Victory after completing his education in Chicago. Cole is discouraged because he can’t go to war due to a disability, and his relationship with his father is poor, but when he meets Sophie, he finds a reason to overcome all his fears and concerns.
While Garlock does a masterful job capturing small-town America, the characters leave something to be desired. Though their love story is sweet, there’s nothing distinguishing about Sophie and Cole—their actions are often predictable. Sophie is a textbook plucky heroine, showing bravery and resilience in the face of fear; Cole is a typical unexpected knight in shining armor, ready to ride to her rescue in his pickup truck. The villains show little motivation for their actions other than general small-mindedness, and even though the reader knows from their actions that they are the ”bad guys,” the author makes them over-the-top vulgar and abusive to remind us of the fact. The wife of Sophie’s employer pops up throughout the novel to harass Sophie for no apparent reason other than to add conflict. A little more backstory to explain the characters’ motivation would have improved this novel.