At the very beginning of this story, the reader is informed that this is not an autobiography. Nor is it exactly a biography. Rather, this is one side of an on-going conversation that takes place over an extended period of time. The story in "One More Moon" is Ralph's grandmother's story of her life. The life Elsa lived is...remarkable, extraordinary, and inspiring.
From the very beginning, the reader sees that Elsa possesses uncommon courage and willingness. She leaves her homeland of Germany to live in Italy for a few months as a matter of her education. Her family, bless them, considered it a matter of course for all of their young ones to live abroad and experience another part of the world, other customs, other peoples. On Elsa's very first day in Italy, she meets the man who will become her husband and the father of her children, so it comes as no surprise that she chose to stay in Italy rather than return to Germany at the end of her educational trip.
Elsa builds an amazing life in Naples with her husband, and later her children. They purchase a pensione - bed and breakfast - and turn it into an international watering hole for personalities of every kind. This brilliant woman finds a way to travel the world and constantly increase her education through conversations with the people who stay with them. She works endlessly, providing a home away from home for dozens of people every day. Her resilience is so clear, though she is incredibly humble and never really states outright just how much work she put in every 24 hours. I feel like I know her on a very deep level. I feel like she and I could become great friends, if we were ever to meet.
One of the most amazing things about Elsa, to me, was how she kept loving with all her might, despite all the hurt she experienced over the years. Many of us reach a point where we just cannot bear to keep putting ourselves out there, to remain vulnerable and open. Better to harden ourselves to a degree, create a crust that will protect us even just a little. Elsa remains open and loving and giving through all her hardships. Through the loss of life to military efforts, through fear, through loss of friendship, through prejudice, through separation from her loved ones. She continues to hold her head high and give of herself to all she encounters. I wish there were more people in the world like her.
This book is an absolute treasure. I am so grateful to have read it. I am currently reading it aloud to my children, who delight in Elsa's playfulness and her dry wit.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Please, just read it.