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Sewing Moonlight by Kyle Mewburn



In the remote Central Otago settlement of Falter's Mill, a young German immigrant named Wilhelm Erdinger seeks solace and a new beginning in the harsh yet fertile lands of 1920s New Zealand. Kyle Mewburn's enthralling novel 'Sewing Moonlight' follows Wilhelm's quest to cultivate a simple, sustainable existence.


From the opening pages, Mewburn deftly transports the reader to this forgotten corner of the past, rendered in vivid descriptive prose that encapsulates the unforgiving beauty of the region. Wilhelm's attempts to put down roots are regarded with deep xenophobic suspicion by the insular locals still reeling from World War I. Yet his quiet determination to embrace the cycles of the natural world gradually earns him a small circle of kindred outsiders.


At its heart, this is a beautiful exploration of the struggle for human connection amidst alienation. Wilhelm's spiritual inclinations make him an outcast, but also foster an empathy that allows fleeting yet profound bonds to fleetingly take root - with a horticulturalist haunted by past loves, a farmer's wife thirsting for intellectual nourishment, a youth cast out by family prejudices.


Mewburn's character studies are masterful and psychologically rich. Wilhelm's inner orbit of thwarted dreams, simmering desires and soulful thoughts on life's wonders become as meticulously cultivated as his garden. The flashes of tragedy that occasionally rupture the idyllic pastoral life are all the more impactful for their tenderly established emotional foundations.


While its overarching narrative admirably resists simplistic archetypes, 'Sewing Moonlight' is perhaps most wondrous in its lyrical evocations of the natural world as both refuge and adversary. The mountainous landscapes, floral life cycles and natural rhythms are rendered with both reverence and clear-eyed pragmatism, mirroring Wilhelm's duelling philosophies.


Mewburn's assured, immersive storytelling works on multiple levels - as a vivid historical reconstruction, a celebration of the regenerative qualities of nature, and a melancholic but hopeful meditation on our cravings for interpersonal and environmental harmony. Like the looming moon that becomes its central motif, 'Sewing Moonlight' exerts a gentle and subtle pull, slowly pulling the reader into its dreamlike, emotionally resonant glow.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Bateman Books



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