In ‘A Love Letter from a Stray Moon’, Jay Griffiths portrays a partly fictional story of the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. It is a tale of love and suffering, spanning from Kahlo’s work, the accident that devastated her life, and the relationship she shared with Diego Rivera, a Mexican painter who became her husband in 1929. Using the perspective of the moon to sometimes narrate the story, we learn about Frida’s struggle through being unable to have a child due to lifelong health problems and injuries caused by a traffic accident as a teenager, which left her with relapses of excessive pain for the rest of her life. Due to her inability, Kahlo found other means to experience motherhood, in caring for Rivera and via the creative processes of her art, bringing to life many pieces now described as illustrative of national and indigenous Mexican traditions.
This is a story that’s appeal does not lie in the plot. The plot itself is quite common, explaining aspects of Frida Kahlo that most people who are familiar with her work would know. Alternatively, the hook is in the poetry of the words, the lyrical way in which the story is told, making it so surprisingly easy to read. The passion in which Griffiths beautifully describes everything, transports the reader into Frida’s mind and body, allowing every emotion to be experienced with her. In this way, ‘A Love Letter from a Stray Moon’ acts as an ethereal boundary between Kahlo and the reader, a rare value for a book.
The only downfall with this novel, however, is its length. I found myself wanting to know more, to take more in. Even though I wanted to learn a more about the characters and places, the story is about Frida herself, her life, and her battle. The heartache and grief that Frida felt throughout her life is particularly apparent in the text, yet it is very fast paced and we learn so few details about the history behind her life. With that said, had Griffiths told us more about the surroundings, or the many people involved, it would have taken away from the beauty and anguish.
‘A Love Letter from a Stray Moon’, is an extraordinary third novel from Griffiths, a tale of love and loss, so eloquently told. With each chapter being more captivating than the last and each sentence tied together so fluently, it is almost impossible to put this book down. I do not think it is the sort of book that would generally be glanced at twice, for the blurb does not give away any hints, however I would recommend it to anyone that desired something original and consuming.
Originally Published in Metior Issue 1, 2011
Words by Kate Collier