Book Review (and a Giveaway!): On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni

Posted September 25, 2023 by meezcarrie in 5 stars, Book Review, Christian, contemporary, giveaway, Holly Varni, romance, women's fiction / 48 Comments

On Moonberry Lake book review

On Moonberry Lake by Holly VarniON MOONBERRY LAKE by Holly Varni
Moonberry Lake #1

GENRE: Romantic Women’s Fiction (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: September 26, 2023
PAGES: 328

“Delightful! Charming! Full of characters who take up residence in your heart. The best of ‘News from Lake Wobegon’ and Father Tim combined.”Lauraine Snelling, bestselling author of the Red River of the North series

Cora Matthews’s life is a mess. A broken engagement and the unexpected death of her mother have left her wondering if things will ever return to normal. Whatever “normal” is.

It certainly isn’t what she finds at Moonberry Lake. After she receives her family’s dilapidated lakefront lodge as an inheritance–with a surprising condition attached–Cora finds her life overrun by a parade of eccentric neighbors who all have something to say and something to teach her.

As Cora works to put her life back together, she must decide if she is willing to let go of the past, open her heart to love, and embrace the craziest version of family and home she could ever have imagined.

“An uplifting novel about the power of small-town community.”–Suzanne Woods Fisher, bestselling author of The Sweet Life

“Rich characters, a delightful setting, and a heartwarming story. You’ll love everything about On Moonberry Lake!”–Ginny L. Yttrup, Christy Award-winning author of Words


“… you’ll have a far more interesting and meaningful life if you open yourself up to people you have to work to understand.”

Y’all are in for a real treat with Holly Varni’s debut novel, On Moonberry Lake! For starters, it is one of the best debuts I’ve ever read, and I easily fell head over heels for the town of Moonberry Lake and its quirky characters. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much reading a book… the kind of laughter that squeezes weird noises out your throat and tears from your eyes. At the same time, it’s full of so much heart and sweet friendship that it uplifted me in other ways besides ‘just’ the humor.

“Tell me, Sam, how is it that, if miracles come in all different packages, you manage to find me the two most bizarre ones?”

On Moonberry Lake may be following Cora Matthews and her return to the small town that held such happy childhood memories – and a really sad one – for her. But it’s very much not just Cora’s story. No, this novel is a love letter to small towns and unlikely friendships, to the family you build around you and the faith you make your own. And oh my goodness, this Minnesota lake town is overflowing with eccentric characters that will capture your heart, just like they do Cora’s: the endearing Mr. Wells, goodhearted Sam, precious Kitty, quiet Joseph, artsy Arielle, verbose Ruth Ann, swoony Ben, intuitive Delphinium, persnickety Alma, befuddled Grace (honestly, bless her heart), and the quirkiest of them all – Widgy (who defies explanation). Each and every one of these characters quickly became like family to Cora, and they felt the same to me, too. I’m already craving another visit with them! (I also can’t neglect to mention the delightful ‘Sightings and Satire’ section of the local paper interspersed occasionally through the story.)

“Your friendship has given me sustenance.”

The faith aspect of On Moonberry Lake is more subtle than overt, but several characters do have a relationship with God that impacts their daily lives. And part of Cora’s growth throughout the book revolves around her recognizing God’s Presence in her life, that she has never been alone despite how she felt, that His voice comes as a whisper rather than a scream. I loved watching how this knowledge begins to change Cora’s outlook and her decisions. While I had a couple of minor theological differences with a subplot involving Kitty’s work in the cemetery, overall I appreciated how the author shows how slowing down to listen to God can transform your life.

“How can ya move forward if you don’t got nothin’ behind ya?”

Bottom Line: If I could give On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni more than 5 stars, I would. I was frequently torn between being goodnaturedly horrified for Cora and guffawing at her unique predicaments. And yes, the author’s way with words and characters made me laugh more than any book in recent memory, but tucked away between the laugh lines of this heartwarming story is also a sweet message of friendship, faith, restoration and personal growth. It’s about learning what makes a family, seeing God’s hand in your life, and taking the time to know the people that others might dismiss. The romance is sweetly swoony and beautifully written. Perfect for fans of Garrison Keillor, Jan Karon, Mary Connealy, or Jennifer Beckstrand!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. In the interest of full disclosure, the company for which I freelance as a blog/review tour coordinator was hired to promote this book with a social media/review tour at a later date. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 5 stars / in a class by itself

KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion

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Holly Varni

Holly Varni is a native Minnesotan of strong Norwegian descent, who was raised in the Lutheran Church that Garrison Keillor made a career depicting. Between the lutefisk, grumpy grandparents, and crazy neighbors who mowed their lawn wearing pajamas, the seed to becoming a storyteller was planted. Though she, her husband, and their three sons live along the Central Coast of California, her beloved Midwest roots continue to haunt everything she writes. She hosts the Moments from Moonberry Lake podcast where she shares more stories of her beloved characters. Learn more at

On Moonberry Lake giveaway

Revell is offering a print copy of On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni to TWO of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What makes you want to read On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni?

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48 responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni

  1. Steph

    Sounds like a great story. I enjoy heartwarming reads to boost my spirit and remind me that there are good people out there.

  2. I’m a Garrison Keillor fan and I devoured Jan Karon’s “Father Tim” series. Why? I grew up in the impersonal burbs, but God smiled and sent my pastor husband and me to a small farm town where we raised our sons. Our years there were the best. This book sounds like a MUST read. Love your reviews!

  3. Roxanne C.

    This book has endorsements from some of my favorite authors, and per Carrie’s review I anticipate an awesome read.

  4. Regina

    What a wonderful review! 🙂 This book sounds awesome and I’m looking forward to reading it. I love a book that brings a smile to your face and to your heart. 💗📚

  5. Sarah

    This sounds like exactly what I’ve been wanting to read!!! Carrie, thanks for always finding the good ones for us!!

  6. Patty

    It’s always fun to discover a great book from a debut author!
    I love small town stories with quirky characters=)

  7. Winnie Thomas

    If this wasn’t already on my radar, it would be after reading your review, my dear BFFFC! I adore fun books with quirky characters and small-town settings.

  8. Joy

    I have to say, Carrie… when I saw your post (I believe on FB) saying how you laughed with this book, I was immediately intrigued because I wouldn’t have thought, based on the cover, to find humor within. I’ll be checking this one out for sure! I love books that make me laugh!

  9. Perrianne Askew

    They way you are gushing over her debut, I definitely want to read it! Besides, debut novels have endeared me to some fabulous authors.

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