Chabon’s newest book, Moonglow is a literary treat. It’s a departure from a regular novel in that it is, at least in part, biographical. The novel follows Chabon as he sits with his grandfather during his grandfather’s last days. His grandfather tells him stories about his life and Chabon is able to piece together the past based on stories he’s heard and the new stories and retellings his grandfather tells him during these final moments. The book begins with an Author’s Note that is fitting for a memoir that isn’t necessarily a memoir, but one that reads more like a novel, “I have stuck to the facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it. Wherever liberties have been taken with names, dates, places, events, and conversations, or with identities, motivations, and interrelationships of family members and historical personages, the reader is assured that they have been taken with due abandon.” This declaimer of sorts sets the reader up for one very engaging novel.
The first line of the novel is actually, “This is how I heard the story” which further sets the reader to understand the unreliability of the narrator as well as a story that may or may not be factual at every point. Chabon remains as the narrator of the story through its entirety, keeping distance from action and the events, but describing it all very closely as if he was an observer during each moment.
About his grandfather, Chabon writes, “Ninety percent of everything he ever told me about his life I heard during the final ten days.” The novel is just over 400-pages in length but takes place within those final ten days. The stories told span the many decades of his grandfather’s life beginning with his childhood in the 1920s of South Philadelphia, through wars, prison, and a retirement home in Florida. The stories heard from his grandfather are full of love, loss, his grandmother, other lovers, business partners, jail time, rockets to the moon, revenge and so many more adventures.
I thoroughly enjoyed Chabon’s newest book and highly recommend it. The characters are unforgettable and his own desire to understand and piece together his past is addictive. The book crosses genres flawlessly and comfortably, as if memoirs and biographies have always been told this way. The book also chronicle’s a history of America and shows how lives have been forever impacted by both small and large events throughout this historical time period. For good reasons, you will see this book listed in “Best Books to Read” articles for quite some time.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.