Reviews for The Common Garden

This is my favorite review of the new edition of my first novel, THE COMMON GARDEN, recently republished by Event Horizon Press with a wonderful new cover. And here’s the link to Amazon.

“For 25 years I have been haunted by a book. That book is based on a wonderful conceit–that the open areas in back of the brownstones on a New York street could be–were–joined together to create a common garden in which various fantasies of communality in the atmosphere generated in the 1960s could be played out and their dynamics examined.

I read it, as I say, 25 years ago, and then it disappeared from view, but here so deservedly it has been brought back and reappears, carrying with it the atmosphere of a time that permanently transformed the culture of the United States, particularly the urban United States. A lovely present for new readers.”

–Karl Martin Loeffler Reisman, Linguist and Anthropologist, author of “Cultural and Linguistic Ambiguity in a West Indian Village”

“Martha Moffett is a feminist Edgar Allan Poe! Was Manhattan in the mid-seventies as decadent as Paris in the 1750s? Soho, the West Side, Midtown, Chinatown, the Village: all the island’s neighborhoods pulse with a sexual energy that resembles a vast subterranean Gothic dungeon…or a secluded rose in bloom.”

–Kevin T. McEneaney, author of “Tom Wolfe’s America: Heroes, Pranksters, and Fools

“The reader will be seduced by this smorgasbord of sexual encounters in this look at an eerie Upper East Side clique in 1970s Manhattan. Sensual abandon is balanced by the realization that evil can lurk in loveless carnal knowledge. Vivid descriptions are presented not only of sex but the city as experienced by one naive visitor over hot summer months several decades ago. Ms. Moffett’s limpid, crystalline prose enhances her erotica.”

–Rosemary Jones, Co-Founder, Key West Literary Seminar

“Love Martha’s books and can’t wait for more!”

–Jo Munday

“A neighborhood that feels like a sexual coven. Practiciing pleasure that turns into nightmarish visions, often drug-induced, but also real….Elegantly written, sparkling with intelligence, Martha Moffett’s novel presents a young, naive married woman from Ohio who spends a summer in a borrowed brownstone on New York’s East Side and discovers who she is–or, more importantly, is not. As we follow her sexual encounters in the drug-fogged, acid-tripping 1970s, we understand Robin’s evolution. THE COMMON GARDEN shines with New York gloss, a subtle valentine to the city’s ambience at a time of profound change. The novel is an uncommon garden, one with earthly–and literary–delights on every page.”

–Barbara Dinerman, author of “H: A Novel”


Reviews for Dead Rock Singer
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“Screwbosky was dead before the first concert of the tour. I had tickets for that tour. Madison Square Garden. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, just bought the albums. I had never been physically closer to him than sitting down front, next to the stage…It never occurred to me then to try to get close to him. I just liked his music. He was part of a good time…And now I have this second chance. Storey Stanton, now Mrs. Talbot, once Storey Screwbosky, was going to give me that chance. To get close to him.”

Thus begins a timely and terrifying tale of obsession, of celebrity stalking run amok. Get ready to be scared as Tony Soprano meets Eva Marie Saint. With Moffett’s distinctive feel for the ease of upper-middle-class suburbanites, Screwbosky’s ex-wife is attracted to this serial charmer as an antidote to boredom. But she gets much more than she bargained for, namely an obsessive bordering on psychopath. This suspenseful, erotic novella maintains a great voice and limpid prose until the bitter end!”

By Phoebe Saffold on September 1, 2014

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Martha writes beautifully and this book is a good example. It is also laid out in a way that is very readable – the font is easy, even fun, makes your eyes skim easily over the pages. The story is riveting and held my attention. Be prepared for some shocks.”

By Antonia Guccione on March 29, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

“Intriguing….well written.”

Reviews for Picnic in Eden:

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“The ironic title of this exquisite novel becomes symbolic not only of the main character’s relationship with the earth, but also foreshadows the complexity of romance and its eventual fall into the difficulties we all face: family, the passing of time and landscape, memory, the subtle textures of loving and betrayal. Molly Graves, the narrator, remains an admirable person in the face of adversity. Having experienced a loving father, she rescues a young drifter, has a wonderful male child by him, but discovers herself abandoned by her narcissistic lover. Fielding deserts both her and their son for another man. Although wounded, she never loses her sense of generosity and wonder about those moments in life that carry singular beauty.

Molly’s memoir-like narration retains a buoyant optimism that affirms the mystery of love in a world broken by self-regarding opportunism. While her lover Fielding enjoys his arrogant self-confidence and half-educated aplomb, he is fully ignorant of the destructive path he wanders in his life. While it’s hard to find a more deeply personal novel to read, the novel resonates with such cultural innuendo that it gathers, from the commonplace details of life, symbolic significance on the national stage, illustrating a privileged gulf between men and women—men being so unconsciously privileged that they fail to appreciate love, even when it is unconditional, because that is what they take for granted in life.

Molly herself begins as something of a slightly privileged waif from Manhattan’s upper East Side. With the death of both her parents, she sets out to explore the perils and wonders of life. Part anti-heroine, part overachiever, part-daydreamer, Molly confesses, along the way, all her frailties, yet we can only love her the more. To love a flawed character—like Emily Bronte’s Catherine loving Heathcliff—creates a dialectic that opens the door to pathos, beauty appreciated and destroyed, the self dying and being reborn to much greater awareness of life’s tapestry. But Molly lives in America not England. She’s aware of our changing sociology—of what we have lost and gained in her lifetime. As a single woman raising her son Marco, she has us believe Marco is a jewel, yet she has no idea, any more than we do, of what kind of jewel he will become. Marco is both as real and as symbolic as Hawthorne’s Pearl. Moffett successfully creates Marco as Pearl’s male, fictional twin.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the novel is the way the interior monologue inside Molly’s head operates like a seamless collage which embraces reality. The seemingly effortless transitions become a marvel in themselves. The dialectic of urban versus country that the novel meditates upon discloses a healing appreciation that subtly dismisses the artificial political divisions of America that now threaten to become cultural shibboleths. What nails the novel as eminently readable is the combination of poetic detail in the physical objects named and used, as they alternate with casual dialogue that beneath its surface carries emotional textures revealing people who do care, even if they are not fully aware of it, for each other. You might want to read the novel twice.”

—Kevin T. McEneaney, author of Russell Banks: In Search of Freedom

By Elisabeth Bastion on October 4, 2012

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

“There’s romance, mystery and skulduggery in the fine arts world in “A Picnic in Eden”. Martha Moffett knows the smart Manhattan East Side very well — as well as an upstate New York apple farm retreat — as a young mother struggles to protect her son in the sudden dramatic change in their once simple life. When her husband disappears, only by forced involvement with dodgy, sophisticated arts experts can she keep her family going while she searches for him. Good cast of characters — good and evil.”

From Elisabeth Bastion, author of “No Just Desserts” and “The Marigold Mafia”.

By Mike Hartner on December 7, 2013

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“Ms. Moffett brings the love of New York’s East side, mystery, and a new twist to an old Romeo&Juliet style to bear in this book. This book is a breath fo fresh air in a world of stodgy old cigar mysteries.

Everyone should have a chance to experience Ms. Moffett’s writing.

This is one Picnic in Eden that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Well done.”

From Mike Hartner, author of “I, Walter,” “I, James,” “I, Mary.”

By Bob Brink on November 19, 2012

Format: Kindle Edition

“It is the mark of a good writer that the reader remains enthralled throughout the storytelling despite a paucity of violence. Such is the case with Martha Moffett and her latest novel, Picnic in Eden. Described by a blogger as a suspense novel, the book keeps one on tenterhooks not for wondering if a character is about to be shot or stabbed or blown up, or experience some other horrendous fate. The tension is in the mysteries of, first, the motive behind the disappearance of the protagonist’s restless and somewhat quixotic husband; and second, the origins of the paintings that an art dealer brings to her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment for private showings, and the dealer’s background and associations.
A novel that might also fit into the romance category – though certainly not the vapid, genre fiction variety – it holds a taut suspense over this element. Will the husband, Fielding, return and he and main character Molly reconcile? Or will she turn him away for his misdeeds and take up with a new man who has entered her life? Or neither?
The story becomes an intricate plot, but the author’s adept narrative carries the reader nimbly through the twists and turns, such that it is not difficult to follow. The pacing instills a high interest level from beginning to end.
In an understated way, the book is a declaration of feminine independence. Molly takes the homeless (though not quite penniless) Fielding, whom she calls Fee, into her home out of admiration in large part for his physical characteristics, a reversal of the traditional male/female role. She is a lover of art, and is smitten with the graceful lines and curves of his masculine body. They marry and have a child (though the birth is not discussed), a clear picture of whom emerges.
Without being dull or didactic – on the contrary, it is intriguingly wrought – the book serves as a primer in the world of art dealing and introduces the neophyte to a few of the fundamentals of art and a light exposure to art history.
Readers looking for scary thrills of the kind found in the fiction of, say, James Patterson, should not search for them here. In cheap novels filled with gruesome murders and other gratuitous mayhem, the violence often, if not usually, is mechanical, with little emotion behind it. There is a dearth of substance. One is left with a feeling of emptiness hours after finishing the book, much like the ephemeral emotion following a sports event.
Picnic in Eden is a different brand of escapism. Characters take shape and a range of human emotions with which anyone can empathize is limned: love, lust, longing, loneliness, greed, fear, courage, cowardice. They are treated, not in the pure blacks and whites of naïvete, but with a realism that paints in shades, rendering them believable and identifiable. And they linger in the recesses of the reader’s psyche.”
— Bob Brink, author of Breaking Out, a novel
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