Chabon uses a memoir-ish format to tell the story about his grandparents' often-turbulent marriage. Or, at least, that's what he says he's doing. Our narrator is Chabon's grandfather, who painstakingly retells the story of his complicated and troubled marriage. Addressing issues of mental illness, the love of science, death, grief, marriage, and the toll on family when one member is mentally ill, Chabon does a wonderful job. His prose is straightforward; he has a great facility for humor, and I was sucked into his story immediately. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Written as a deathbed confession, Moonglow charts the course of a Jewish delinquent’s life from the hustle of Philly to the munitions factories of Hitler’s Germany to the reaches of NASA’s rocket program. A sly novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow bursts with the prose fireworks and profound compassion of Chabon’s finest work. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
Chabon’s (Telegraph Avenue) charming and elegantly structured novel is presented as a memoir by a narrator named Mike who shares several autobiographical details with Chabon (for one they’re both novelists who live in the Bay Area). Mike’s memoir is concerned less with his own life than with the lives of his deceased maternal Jewish grandparents who remain unnamed. His grandfather—whose deathbed reminisces serve as the novel’s main narrative engine—is a WWII veteran with an anger streak (the stint he does in prison after a workplace assault is one of the novel’s finest sections) and a fascination with V 2 rockets astronomy space travel and all things celestial or skyward. Mike’s grandmother born in France is alluring but unstable “a source of fire madness and poetry” whose personal history overlaps in unclear ways with the Holocaust and whose fits of depression and hallucination result in her institutionalization (also one of the novel’s finest sections). Chabon imbricates his characters’ particular histories with broader detail rich narratives of war migration and technological advances involving such figures as Alger Hiss and Wernher von Braun. This move can sometimes feel forced. What seduces the reader is Chabon’s language which reinvents the world joyously on almost every page. Listening to his grandfather’s often harrowing stories Mike thinks to himself “What I knew about shame... would fit into half a pistachio shell.” (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"[C]harming and elegantly structured....What seduces the reader is Chabon’s language, which reinvents the world, joyously, on almost every page." Publishers Weekly
"Moonglow blurs the line between autobiography and fiction in interesting ways, and manages to feel more artful than most memoirs and more true than most novels." Bookish
"Luminous....The story builds to core revelations of wartime horror and postwar heartbreak as powerful as they come." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"His most beautifully realized novel to date....a masterful and resounding novel of the dark and blazing forces that forged our tumultuous, confounding, and precious world." Booklist (Starred Review)
About the Author
Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize — winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Summerland, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Maps & Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, Telegraph Avenue, and the picture book The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.
Michael Chabon on PowellsBooks.Blog
I was interested in that idea of the provenance of stories and the credentials of stories, and why some stories become believed when they aren't true and other stories that are true may never be heard at all or, if they are heard, they're disbelieved...