Study Guide

Shooting the Moon Summary

By Frances O'Roark Dowell

Shooting the Moon Summary

We kick off with a bang when TJ gets deployed to the Vietnam War only a couple weeks after enlisting. His younger sister, Jamie (our leading lady) is thrilled. Yep, you read that right. She's been around war her whole life. Her dad is a big shot (a.k.a. colonel) on an army base and won a slew of medals back in the day, so she's spent her fair share of time around soldiers. Her parents, on the other hand, aren't so excited about the prospect of their son going off to war—Jamie just doesn't know it yet.

Mail call. The first package arrives from TJ and Jamie can't wait to open it. That is, until she realizes there's no juicy letter for her inside. Instead she gets a roll of film with instructions to develop it. Um, okay. She's never done that before. Luckily, she's a natural, and Sergeant Byrd down at the rec center teaches her in no time. She develops the pics, but all she sees are huts and people, plus a couple shots of the moon. Sigh.

Jamie's friend Cindy loves the moon, so she takes the moon pics over to her house. Cindy puts the pictures on her wall, and it reminds Jamie of how much TJ loved photographing the moon. Something about all the grooves and shadows appealed to him. Whatever, though; Jamie just wants some blood and guts. Is that too much to ask? Meanwhile, she passes the time playing cards with her new army pal Hollister at the rec center. They have a gin rummy tournament going, and it's anybody's game.

While Jamie gets more rolls of film from TJ, she starts to get a picture of what war is actually like. There are amputees and bandaged men who look really young. Sergeant Byrd tells her he still has nightmares about his time over there. Jamie's not so sure she loves the idea of this war thing anymore, but she worries who she is without it since her family is an army family. What do they have without the war?

As it turns out, Jamie's dad isn't stoked about the Vietnam War either. The Colonel thinks it was a good idea to begin with, but it's gone on too long now. More and more people are dying over there. He lets her in on a little secret. Shh… He confesses that he tried to pull some strings to keep TJ out of the front lines, but wasn't able to. Now Jamie just wants her brother to come home.

One day, she finds out that Hollister's unit is about to ship out to Vietnam. His brother already died over there, and Jamie knows it will kill his mom if two of her kids don't come home from the same war. Enter the Colonel. Jamie asks the guy for a favor: Don't sign Hollister's deployment papers. It's that simple. He hesitates at first, since it's against procedure, but sooner or later, the Colonel comes around and agrees to keep Hollister put. Phew.

Just on the tail of that good news, Jamie suffers a blow: TJ has been taken as a POW (prisoner of war). Hollister drops by to see if she's okay—which, duh, she's not—and they, along with Jamie's mom and dad, all play cards together. Seem a bit light for a family that just learned their son was a POW? It's called distraction, people.

The book closes pretty rapidly, but we do get our loose ends tied up: TJ comes home two years later as the war is wrapping up. When he gets home, Jamie shows him the pictures she took while he was gone, and—ready for this?—there's one for every moon that he missed.