Ghost Moth

252 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $14.95
ISBN: 9781934137604


ISBN: 9781934137611

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“A Belfast-born actress with experience in film, theater, and television, Forbes draws from her own professional and personal background to imbue her protagonist with authentic energy and humanity . . . deftly explor[ing] the private and public struggles of this particular Catholic family with vivid, poetic language. . . . By the end, the truth—the brutal and the beautiful—rises to the surface of this eloquent novel.”

Boston Globe

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“Evocative . . . Forbes’ writing is lovely.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

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“Forbes’s exquisite writing keeps Ghost Moth fresh and moving. This is a terrific novel, and like everything I’ve read from Bellevue Literary Press, it’s one that will stay with me.”

Concord Monitor/Concord Insider

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“Startling, gorgeous and memorable . . . Fans of family stories and historical fiction will enjoy this book immensely and the vivid, lyrical language will appeal to readers of literary fiction.”

Sunday Independent

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“Beautifully written . . . Confident and lyrical. Michèle Forbes is a name to watch.”

Irish Examiner

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“Forbes, who has already won major awards for her short stories, knows how to write—her prose is unfailingly elegant . . . [Ghost Moth] confirms its author as an exceptional talent.”

Belfast Telegraph & Irish Independent

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“Exceptional . . . Forbes is a master of creating high tension and drama. . . . Ghost Moth is a compelling novel with a sharp emotional lens.”

Colorado Review

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“Excellent . . . [Forbes’] writing is precisely observed, understated, elegant, and the characters live off the page.”

Historical Novels Review

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“Readers will revel in the skillful writing . . . complex plot . . . strong characterization . . . lyrical descriptions . . . Genre fans (Irish-history buffs, family-story readers, historical-fiction enthusiasts) will enjoy this novel, while its stylistic richness and narrative intricacy will also please readers of literary fiction. Highly recommended.”

Booklist (starred review)

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“Forbes debuts a gemlike novel. Rare and luminescent, her storytelling is deliberate in its unfolding. Readers will marvel at the subtle embroidering of folk stories such as the Selkie wife and Briar Rose into the Bedfords’s narrative. Fans of Anne Enright’s fiction will admire a similar brilliance in this work.”

Library Journal

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“Personal and political turmoil erupt in the life of Irish housewife Katherine Bedford during the summer of 1969 in Forbes’s powerful debut novel. . . . Through her richly imagined characters, Forbes depicts a fully human and flawed relationship between two people with their own desires, memories, and secrets.”

Publishers Weekly

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“Lyrical and beautifully written . . . [A] riveting family drama—concerned with the secrets, lies and hidden torments between those one is closest to, and the heartbreak of lost love.”

The Bookseller

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“A powerful debut novel, one that brings to life 20th-century Ireland with lyrical precision, from the people to the landscape to the country itself.”

Largehearted Boy

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“What makes Ghost Moth such a compelling read is the individual characters . . . As literary heroines go, Katherine is quite ordinary; nonetheless, Forbes paints a vast and colorful tapestry of a life that is anything but. Ghost Moth is more than just a story of a woman torn between two men; it is a novel that anyone who has ever experienced a crisis of faith can identify with.”

Akashic Insider

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“Though this is Forbes’ first novel, Katherine is a sophisticatedly created heroine, perfect in her flaws, compelling in her lies, beautiful in her tragedy. . . . ‘What does love feel like?’ Katherine’s oldest daughter, Maureen asks. ‘Floating and burning,’ her mother replies. And like love, Forbes’ prose floats with captured emotion and burns with its vivid imagery.”

Late Night Library

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“This debut novel by Michele Forbes begins with a great, menacing scene in choppy ocean waters. I was thoroughly hooked by [the] opening lines.”

Quivering Pen

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Ghost Moth is a beautifully deceptive book. It feels light, ethereal, gentle and precious. Yet it deals with such momentous issues as religious intolerance, infidelity, illness, death. . . . Revelations come not with a bang, but with a whisper, mirroring life as it truly is rather than the drama we try to pull from it.”


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“Intricate and lyrical . . . [Ghost Moth] mesmerizes readers, wrapping them lazily into the tale until there is no escape but by turning the final page.” —BookNAround


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“Forbes’ prose is like a masterful painting you see at a museum: at first glance you may respond to the beauty, the color and texture, composition and themes. But the longer you look the more you realize the artwork is powerful, it’s both contained and expansive, incredible in and of itself, but also able to impact the way you feel . . . A terrific novel.”


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“Clever, unpredictable, beautifully written and crafted—Ghost Moth stayed with me for a long time after I’d finished reading the final, sad, wonderful page.”

Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and The Commitments

Ghost Moth is an impressive debut by a writer who is not afraid to address the so-called ordinary lives of real human beings. We shall be hearing a great deal more from Michèle Forbes.”

John Banville, Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and Ancient Light

“This slow burning tale is both guileless and deeply—sometimes erotically—charged. The writing soaks up the world, and thrills to the beauty of it. Children, bees, milk, the sea, all are wonderfully rendered and alive on the page. Katherine Bedford—so ordinary and so passionate—is a heroine to treasure.”

Anne Enright, Booker Prize-winning author of The Gathering and The Forgotten Waltz

“A bountiful river of lovely images, fresh and perfect, a triumphant story both familiar and strange. A stellar debut.”

Sebastian Barry, Booker Prize-nominated author of The Secret Scripture and On Canaan’s Side

“A haunting story about love, yearning and loss that never fails to surprise or move the reader. This is a most impressive debut from a supremely talented writer.”

Christine Dwyer Hickey, author of Last Train from Liguria and Tatty

“A commanding debut, packed with genuine characters, telling its story with powerful control. Ghost Moth is a beautiful book, by a wonderful writer.”

Frank McGuinness, twice Tony Award-nominated playwright of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award-winning play Someone Wholl Watch Over Me 

“A beauty of a novel, Irish writer Michele Forbes delves deep into consequences of unrequited love.”

Stacey Lewis, City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA)

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“[A] deftly constructed first novel . . . While writing about life’s dramas, Forbes refuses to overdramatize her material—making [Ghost Moth’s] revelations all the more powerful.”

Laurie Greer, Politics & Prose Bookstore (Washington, DC)

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During the hot Irish summer of 1969, tensions rise in Belfast where Katherine, a former actress, and George, a firefighter, struggle to keep buried secrets from destroying their marriage. In this emotionally acute debut novel, Michèle Forbes immerses the reader in a colorful tapestry of life. Throughout the book’s carefully woven story the bonds of family are tested and forgiveness is made possible through two parents’ indomitable love for their children.

An exploration of memory, childhood, illicit love, and loss, Ghost Moth portrays ordinary experiences as portals to rich internal landscapes: a summer fair held by children in a back yard garden exposes the pangs and confusion of a first crush; an amateur theatre production of Bizet’s Carmen hires a lonely tailor who puts so much careful attention into the creation of a costume for his lover that it’s as if his desire for her can be seen sewn into the fabric. All the while, Northern Ireland moves to the brink of civil war. As Catholic Republicans and Protestant Loyalists clash during the “Troubles,” the lines between private anguish and public outrage disintegrate in this exceptional tale about a family—and a country—seeking freedom from ghosts of the past.

Irish Book Awards Shortlist

Library Journal Best Indie Fiction of the Year

Chatelaine magazine Book Club selection

Concord Monitor/Concord Insider Book of the Week

Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book Staff Pick

Brooklyn Book Festival Most Impressive Debut Novelist

Late Night Library Battle of the Books Final Four

City Lights Bookstore Staff Pick

Politics & Prose Bookstore Staff Pick

Excerpt from Ghost Moth

Upstairs Katherine walks quickly into her bedroom and closes the door behind her. Laundry has been left on the end of the bed. George’s shirts are ironed and hanging on the handle of the wardrobe door. Katherine opens the wardrobe, kneels down and, reaching into the very back of it, pulls out a small box wrapped in cloth. She unravels the cloth and opens the box. Inside the box is something covered in waxy paper. She opens the paper and reveals a small porcelain statuette of an old man, a clay pipe in one hand and a needle and thread in the other. The smooth, bald head of the statuette had broken off when she had let it slip from her hands the day George was helping her move out of her mother’s flat. She holds both pieces in her hand and looks at them.

As she lifts the paper in which the statuette had been wrapped she feels the jolt it gives. She opens it out. She invites it in. It is a music sheet; before she sang at every rehearsal she would take out her little hand-held mirror and her lipstick from her handbag and ease orange-red across her lips. Then, folding her music sheet in half—this piece of paper in front of her—she would push it against her mouth to take the excess. Scattered all around the page, like a swarm of orange-red insects, are her rosebud lipstick kisses. A sheet music full of kisses, little signals of orange-red love, each one a promise that she would nurture the spirit of her dreams until they came true. She sees the handwritten musical notation and the lyrics from Carmen—“Si tu ne m’aimes pas, si ti ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime!”—and at the bottom of the sheet a handwritten translation—“If you don’t love me, if you don’t love me and I’m mad about you!” With this her mind flashes with an image grim and disturbing. No, don’t go there. No, not that. She blots it out.

The bedroom door opens and George steps a little into the room, but he stops in his tracks when he sees what Katherine is holding in her hand. He knows immediately what it is.

During her US tour, Michèle Forbes discussed Ghost Moth and the writing life with authors Roxana Robinson, Caroline Leavitt, John Searles, Bernice L. McFadden, and Elizabeth Nunez at a special Strand bookstore event, sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association. Watch the video here.

In selecting Ghost Moth for the Publishers Weekly “Best Summer Books” issue, co-editorial director Michael Coffey explains how “this amazingly assured first novel” found its home at BLP: “After receiving rejections from 38 publishers in the U.K. and Ireland, Forbes (an actress) got a tip from Paul Harding of Tinkers fame at the Dublin Writers’ Festival, which led her to send the manuscript to Bellevue.”

Irish author Michèle Forbes had trouble finding a publisher for her debut novel, Ghost Moth, until she sent her manuscript to Bellevue Literary Press. Read her story in the Irish Times and the find out more about its very happy ending in The Bookseller.