Title: The Moment
Author: Douglas Kennedy
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
In 1984, writer Thomas Nesbitt travels to West Berlin in order to write a book on the city. He meets Petra Dussman, a translator and political dissident from East Germany, and falls in love with her. While Petra is cold at first, she quickly returns Thomas’ affections, and both are happier than they ever could have thought. But Petra’s past eventually comes back to haunt her, and Thomas realizes their bliss can’t last forever.
The Moment is actually told in one long flashback, from a 50-year-old, present-day Thomas Nesbitt. As a result, from the beginning, the reader knows that the relationship between Petra and Thomas won’t last. They know he returns to the United States and seemingly never looks back. That knowledge makes The Moment difficult to read at times; the happiness between Petra and Thomas won’t last, and it’s sad because they work so well together.
The portrayal of West and East Berlin is fascinating. Kennedy captures the free and clear atmosphere of the West, the colors and lights and sounds. But when Thomas crosses the border into East Berlin, everything becomes gray. He uses snow as a metaphor to describe East Berlin in his writing, and with Kennedy’s vivid descriptions, the reader can picture it easily. He also captures the paranoid and claustrophobic nature of the time period, the suspicion that the East had for the West and vice versa. It’s interesting to be thrust into something so foreign, yet so close to our current time period, and to really feel what it was like to live in Berlin during the 1980s.
The love story in The Moment is sweet, but the book is a little longer than it needs to be. It’s contemplative and full of wonderful descriptions and character development, true, but it takes some time to get started. Sometimes there is too much detail. Once the novel really gets going, it’s difficult to put down, but that takes a little too long to arrive.
Still, I highly recommend The Moment for its wonderful atmosphere and gripping story. The relationship development between Thomas and Petra is touching. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time after you finish it, as readers will wonder about their own “moments”, as well as the nature of betrayal. It’s a thought-provoking and enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more of Kennedy’s works.