Moonglow

Moonglow

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"This book is beautiful." -- A.O. Scott, New York Times Book Review, cover review

"An exuberant meld of fiction and family history." -- Hamilton Cain, O Magazine

Following on the heels of his New York Times bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure--and the forces that work to destroy us.

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother's home in Oakland, California, to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon's grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon.

 Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather." It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact--and the creative power--of keeping secrets and telling lies. It is a portrait of the difficult but passionate love between the narrator's grandfather and his grandmother, an enigmatic woman broken by her experience growing up in war-torn France. It is also a tour de force of speculative autobiography in which Chabon devises and reveals a secret history of his own imagination.

 From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York's Wallkill prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of the "American Century," the novel revisits an entire era through a single life and collapses a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most moving and inventive.

Publisher: New York, NY :, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers,, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062225559
0062225553
Branch Call Number: FICTION Chabon Michael 11/2016
Characteristics: 430 pages :,illustration ;,24 cm.

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From Library Staff

List - Shawnee's 2017 Notables
JCLEmmaF Dec 21, 2017

An elegant memoir/pack of lies.

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JCLMELODYK Feb 10, 2017

What great characters and amazing story. This fictional nonfiction is one of my favorite recent reads.


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ssemegran
May 13, 2019

This is a novel written as a memoir about “Michael Chabon” memorializing his “grandfather.” In the last ten days of his life, his stoic grandfather unloads stories about his time in World War II, a stint in prison, how he met his wife, the “grandmother” of the novel, and the trauma of the family dealing with her mental illness. She is institutionalized for a couple of years in the early 1950s and a profound secret of hers is “buried” there only to be unearthed in the journal of her psychologist many years later by the grandson, the fictional Mike Chabon.

The stories of his different family members are beautifully told, as only the real Michael Chabon can write, deeply affecting even. But the use of his family name(s) for the narrator and certain other family members is a very unusual choice, one that ultimately left me scratching my head. While reading the book, I assumed Michael Chabon was writing about his real family and filtering their stories through his writerly hand, adding literary flourishes as he saw fit. He never gives the name of his grandfather or grandmother, while he uses his own name (he’s called Mike) as well as his uncle, paternal grandfather, and the like. But in an article in the back of the book reprinted from BuzzFeed, Chabon cops to the fact that the novel is completely fictional. He tells the reporter, “In a weird way, it’s a memoir of not my life, but my imaginative life…” Again, this led to more head scratching. Why use his own name? Without this article in the back of the book, a reader would assume, as I did, that there was some truth in this book. If there is no truth, then why not give all the characters their own unique, fictional names?

As a writer, this choice did lead to many questions. I did ponder things like: what constitutes a novel? What constitutes a memoir? Where does fact and fiction intersect if you’re looking for truth? What if truth doesn’t matter? And these are fun things for a writer to consider and definitely gets in “nerd alert” territory. But if there are more questions than answers, then does this hobble the book itself? Would I have been more satisfied if Chabon didn’t use his family name at all? Most definitely.

Another curious choice is some very explicit details of the sex life between the grandfather and grandmother, details so graphic that I highly doubt any grandson would recount to anyone in this way. Although it’s only a few paragraphs in the book, I cannot for the life of me figure out why “Chabon” would give these lurid details about his “grandparents” having sex. Very strange literary choice.

Ultimately, this isn’t my favorite Chabon novel. I did enjoy the stories of the grandfather in World War II and his time in prison. They’re beautifully told. But mostly, it just made me realize how much I enjoyed his other novels more than this one. I’d give this novel three and a half stars.

n
nolilite
Mar 23, 2018

Michael Chabon is a colorful writer using interesting metaphors, catchy phrases and keen story telling, but I found Moonglow needed a bit of editing. Too many extraneous limbs branched out from the main trunk of the story; interesting, but more appropriate short story material. The most compelling part of Moonglow describes the character’s WWII experiences trying to track down the V-2 rocket genius Wernher von Braun.

I guess I prefer tight writing and story telling without repetition, rambling asides and editable addendum. These days do authors get paid by the number of words? Or, are publishers’ budgets too shallow to afford copy editors? Just wondering...!

e
eappelbaum
Feb 26, 2018

Fascinating book. Nice to see a Jewish point of view, especially about the "hero" Von Braun.

c
Courier2003
Aug 07, 2017

Could not get into this book Skipped it.!

JCLMELODYK Feb 10, 2017

What great characters and amazing story. This fictional nonfiction is one of my favorite recent reads.

SPL_Shauna Jan 24, 2017

Based extremely loosely on stories Chabon's grandfather told him on his deathbed, I expected this to be a sad, sad book. It was not. Rather, it was a celebration of the many absolute characters in Chabon's family, and their extremely strange adventures through WWII and into Chabon's childhood. Moonglow is a strong offering fans of Chabon will enjoy.

e
EmilyEm
Jan 03, 2017

Mike Chabon writes a seeming memoir of his grandfather, but as the book jacket says what we have is ‘a lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir.’ What a story. What a grandfather and grandmother.

Be sure to read the acknowledgements! Those of us coming of age in post-WW II America will find many reminders of those years when the race to land men on the moon took the nation’s attentions and filled its dreams. Highly recommended.

g
GummiGirl
Dec 27, 2016

Beautifully written, with characters and settings you won't forget.

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kelsey_milton
Feb 12, 2019

kelsey_milton thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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