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Inspired by a real case, Half Moon Lake is a captivating historical novel set in America's Deep South about a lost boy - and the two mothers who both seek to claim him.

'They said he was their boy. And so he was . . .'

In 1913, on a summer’s day at Half Moon Lake, Louisiana, four-year-old Sonny Davenport walks into the woods and never returns.

The boy’s mysterious disappearance from the family’s lake house makes front-page news in their home town of Opelousas. John Henry and Mary Davenport are wealthy and influential, and will do anything to find their son. For two years, the Davenports search across the South, offer increasingly large rewards and struggle not to give in to despair.

Then, at the moment when all hope seems lost, the boy is found in the company of a tramp.

But is he truly Sonny Davenport? The circumstances of his discovery raise more questions than answers. And when Grace Mill, an unwed farm worker, travels from Alabama to lay claim to the child, newspapers, townsfolk, even the Davenports’ own friends, take sides.

As the tramp’s kidnapping trial begins, and two desperate mothers fight for ownership of the boy, the people of Opelousas discover that truth is more complicated than they’d ever dreamed . . .

Half Moon Lake is Kirsten Alexander’s compelling debut novel, about the parent-child bond, identity, and what it means to be part of a family.

Spotify Playlist

Half Moon Lake is set in 1913-1916 Louisiana. Discover some music of the era – ragtime, dixieland, classical and wartime songs – on Spotify.

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A gripping, nervy tale of identity, class and race, in which power and money triumph over truth … a strong original narrative, with a central mystery and an intriguing plot.

Sydney Morning Herald

An accomplished debut novel.

Australian Book Review

Half Moon Lake is a captivating novel... Transporting us to another time, she takes readers to a world rife with injustice and prejudice, where the truth can be bought with gold, and social appearances mean everything. For readers who enjoy both historical and thriller fiction, Half Moon Lake should be on your reading list for 2019.

Better Reading

An incredibly strong debut that left me thinking about this book for weeks.

Sam Still Reading

Alexander’s thoughtful novel kept me engrossed and raised plenty of questions that had me thinking about the book long after I finished.

Good Reading Magazine

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    January 2, 2019

    Bantam Australia

    336 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    January 2, 2019

    Random House Australia

    336 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
  • Audio Download


    January 2, 2019

    Penguin Random House Australia Audio

    RRP $26.99

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Audible AU
    • Google Play Audio AU
    • Kobo Audiobook


Chapter One

The three boys bounded through the grass towards the forest, a spray of panicky hoppers glimmering around them, while John Henry recited the passage from Scouting for Boys that approved the adventure. He nodded when he reached the end.

Mary fixed her eyes on the children, one arm raised to block the late-morning sun. ‘They’ve never gone so far on their own.’

‘George wants responsibility.’ John Henry smiled at his wife. ‘We should encourage him.’

‘Seven’s no age for responsibility, John.’ Nor, she thought, old enough to shepherd a six- and a four-year-old, neither of whom could walk unsupervised to their bedroom at night without veering off to investigate some amusing distraction. An insect, a thud. But she bit her tongue for fear the Scouts had something to say about that, too.

Mary watched her boys slow their pace and enter the forest, lifting their hands and knees as though wading into cold sea. In a blink they were gone, indistinguishable from the dark mess of pine trees, discarded branches and spiky undergrowth.

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Researching Half Moon Lake

Author Kirsten Alexander on the podcast that sparked the idea for her debut novel.

Book Clubs
Half Moon Lake Book Club Notes

Explore the parent-child bond, identity, and what it means to be part of a family with your book club.