When polio stalked Minnesota in 1948, fear was every mother’s constant companion. Young Nova Tierney and her older brother, Dewey, live a mostly idyllic life despite sharing living space with a motley assortment of tenants at the boarding house run by their Aunt Dortha and mother, Catherine. Dewey, nicknamed “Galileo” for his love of astronomy, dreams of some day walking on the moon, and he and Nova spend many happy hours looking at the night sky together in their backyard. When Dewey is hospitalized with polio, Nova promises to watch the moon for him (thus the title) until he is well. But will he recover? In her bitterness over a childhood secret, her late husband’s infidelity and her son’s desperate illness, his mother turns her back on God. “Sometimes, I wonder how we all go on living,” she muses. Hope begins to return when she strikes up a friendship with boarder and Auschwitz survivor Josef Karski. Meanwhile, Nova exchanges letters with her brother and dreams of having a father again. She takes comfort in the stars: “as long as the moon was in its place and the stars were burning and the planets were moving through their spheres… everything was all right.”
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