from Lori D. Kranz The Bloomsbury Review — a review of The Vanishing Moon
The Vanishing Moon is a good old-fashioned novel. “Old-fashioned” in the best sense of the word: a compelling story, interesting and well-rendered characters, and great writing. Told in three voices, the book concerns the Tollman family, beginning with a middle brother Stephen as a child during the Great Depression. Jessica Tollman, his mother, is going blind as Eddie, his father, loses his job and cannot pay for the operation she needs The family, with three [sic] sons and a daughter, loses their home and is forced to live in a tent. Eddie, depressed and overcome by guilt over a business venture gone bad, abandons his wife and children, leaving Phil, the oldest child, with a resentment that deepens into bitterness. The story shifts to the voice of Katherine, a free spirit and talented pianist in the town, as Phil and Stephen, both enamored of her, approach adulthood in the years just before World War II. In the 1960s, James, Phil’s younger son, picks up the narrative and the reader comes to see the Tollman family — and particularly the now middle-aged Phil and Stephen — through his eyes. The novel comes full-circle with Stephen’s voice. The Vanishing Moon is a beautifully told story about family bonds, love, loss, and the power of memory over our lives. This is Joseph Coulson’s first novel, and I hope not his last.
from Donna Seaman, Booklist — “Joseph Coulson,” a review of The Vanishing Moon
The Tollman children — spitfire Phil, the eldest; musing Stephen, his shadow; charming but doomed Margie; and stuttering Myron — adore their lovely, competent Vanishing Moon – Booklistmother and cannot forgive their lackluster father for allowing her to go blind. So destitute are they at the worst of the Great Depression that they end up living in a tent outside Cleveland’s city limits, where life is as brutal and sporadically transcendent as the moody Midwest’s meteorologic extremes. Assured and purposeful, first-time novelist Coulson infuses each surprising and evocative moment with great feeling and mythic resonance as he leapfrogs forward in time, subtly tracing the impact of the Second World War, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War on his emotionally damaged characters. Shifting between Cleveland and Detroit, and among several points of view, including that of Katherine, a brilliant pianist with whom both Phil and Stephen fall madly in love, Coulson writes with surpassing clarity and dignity about grief, anger, sexual passion, the need for art, brotherly love, and the resilience of good women, creating a somberly beautiful family saga.