Audio/Book Review: Gateway to the Moon

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4 – 4.5 stars for the story.

3-3.5 stars for the audiobook.

Originally, I was listening to Gateway to the Moon on audio CD (thanks to Recorded Books) and okay, at first I wasn’t enjoying the narration – I felt like I was sitting in the story-time circle because of the narrator’s slow, over-enunciated manner of reading. Then, I thought to give it some breathing room since I was just coming off of listening to 52 hours straight of Robert Glenister’s (fantastic!) narration of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. I listened to all three audiobooks in the series back-to-back-to-back, so I figured it was going to be an adjustment listening to anyone else’s narration. But Luis Moreno still over-enunciated and read slowly and Very Clearly.

I also found that I wasn’t too sure where the characters were situated in their timelines, in the beginning, and I found I needed to SEE it before continuing to listen. This meant a quick trip to the library nearby and borrowing the hardcopy. Well! There are some important pieces at the beginning, like a list of characters from the two eras, a Chronology and a Genealogy of the de Torres family in the 15th-16th century and in the 20th century. These pieces of information were (obviously) not read, but were so vital to grounding the story.

Only the “Historical Note” is read by the narrator at the beginning and without the list of principal characters, genealogy and chronology, I felt adrift. At first I was thinking no way, this audiobook isn’t going to work out, it’s not a good one that translates well in audio – but once I had these parts in front of me to look at whenever I needed their references I settled in and enjoyed. (Sorry if these images aren’t very clear.)


So I decided to continue listening to the audiobook. I had the backup information to refer to whenever necessary. But then I found I just wanted to keep reading, to spend more time with the story, so I switched fully over to the hardcopy. (If you do wish to listen to the audio, I would say that grabbing the book so that you can see the important details at the front and can refer to them while listening, would be very helpful.)

But this story! It’s fantastic! It covers the Inquisition in Spain, Portugal and Mexico. It includes characters like Christopher Columbus and also has a contemporary storyline. It’s all very sweeping and epic and oh so wonderful!

From award-winning novelist and memoirist Mary Morris comes the story of a sleepy New Mexican community that must come to grips with a religious and political inheritance they never expected.

We begin in Entrada de la Luna with Miguel, a young boy with a passion for the stars and a desire to leave this tiny dead-end community. We then move back in time to 1492 to meet Luis de Torres – a crypto-Jew leaving his family to work as a translator for Christopher Columbus. Luis de Torres is not his real name however, forced to change because of a decree to convert all Muslims and Jews to Christianity, Yosef Ben Ha Levi Halvri, the Hebrew, escapes and sails with Christopher Columbus. These historical parts were so vivid and fascinating and tells a truer story of Christopher Columbus’ discoveries and treatment of those native of the lands he has sailed upon.

We journey through the perilous times of the Spanish Inquisition, linking de Torres to Christopher Columbus and to other historical characters to Portugal and the de Torres family members there and how the Inquisition impacts them there, leading up all the way to Mexico and finally to their settlement in New Mexico, in the tiny community of Entrada de la Luna. The modern storyline is in Entrada de la Luna with Miguel Torres and his new employer, Rachel Rothstein. Miguel is hired to babysit her two young boys while she attempts to continue her work as an artist. Her Jewish customs are strikingly similar to many of the Catholic customs Miguel’s family has always followed.

It moves back and forth with a sweeping dual-storyline beginning with Miguel’s, moving back to Luis’ and forward through the centuries to chronicle the torture, pursuit and the fierce strength of resistance by the Jewish people to maintain their faith and religion in their constant times of persecution.

How the story comes to unfold and explain traditions and practices of the community in Entrada de la Luna is fascinating, sweeping, epic and completely absorbing. I felt when reading as I did when reading People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and a little of  Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone. And while I enjoyed the historical storyline more, because I felt their storyline to be more engrossing, but how everything is tied together and explained at the end, is wonderfully satisfying as well.  I just felt the storyline for Rachel Rothstein to wander a little more than necessary and how their traditions and practices are similar were not a strong focus in their stories.

Gateway to the Moon is an excellent, sweeping, fascinating epic! I highly recommend! Overall, I did prefer to read this in hardcopy format though. Being able to flip back as often as I wanted to the chronology and genealogy pages was very important for me to continue to ground, follow and situate the characters and their stories.