Blame it on Hawaii’s rainbows, sparkling beaches, fruity cocktails, and sensuous breezes. For Heather Diamond, there for a summer course on China, a sea change began when romance bloomed with Fred, an ethnomusicologist from Hong Kong.
One night under a full moon, Fred tells Heather the story of Chang’e, the moon goddess. He points out how the shadows form a rabbit pounding an elixir of immortality, but all Heather sees in the moon is a man’s face.
Returning to her teaching job in Texas, Heather wonders if the whirlwind affair was a moment of madness. She is, after all, forty-five years old, married, a mother and grandmother.
Rabbit in the Moon follows Heather and Fred’s relationship as well as Heather’s challenges with multiple mid-life reinventions, such as moving to Hawaii, entering a Ph.D. program, and living in a dorm with students half her age.
When Fred goes on sabbatical, Heather finds herself on the Hong Kong island of Cheung Chau with his large, boisterous family. For an independent, reserved American, adjusting to his extended family isn’t easy. She wants to fit in, but is culture shocked by the lack of privacy, the language barrier, and the Chinese aesthetic of renao (“hot & noisy”).
Life on Cheung Chau is overwhelming but also wondrous. Heather chronicles family celebrations, ancestor rituals, and a rich cycle of festivals like the Hungry Ghosts Festival, Chinese New Year, and the Bun Festival. Her descriptions of daily life and traditions are exquisite, seamlessly combining the insights of an ethnographer with the fascination of a curious newcomer who gradually transitions topart of the family.
Ultimately, Heather’s experiences abroad make her realize what she has overlooked with her own family back in the United States, and she sets about making amends.
Moving between Hawaii, Hong Kong, and the continental US, Rabbit in the Moon is an honest, finely crafted meditation on intercultural marriage, the importance of family, and finding the courage to follow your dreams.