Moonglow

Michael Chabon

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.

Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact-and the creative power-of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics and Boy’s Life.

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,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

Reviews of Moonglow

  • Funny, moving and tremendously entertaining, Moonglow is suitably dappled with light and shade. Perhaps, above all, this is a novel about the narratives we construct for ourselves and the need we have for them, one that confirms Chabon not just as an irresistible tale-teller, but also a master’ Daily Mail

    ‘”It doesn’t add up to anything,” stated the grandfather, as he looks back at his life. “It doesn’t mean anything.” Luminous with love, Moonglow is here to show us that it does.’ Irish Independent

    ‘Very charming and very readable’ Sunday Times

    ‘A cracker…comparable to the young Paul Auster … It’s as intriguing as a locked room mystery, but in keeping with Chabon’s canon, also has a heart the size of an elephant’ Big Issue

    ‘A wondrous book that celebrates the power of family bonds and the slipperiness of memory … A thoroughly enchanting story about the circuitous path that a life follows’ The Washington Post

    A rich and exotic confection. Too strict a recipe would have spoiled the charm of this layer cake of nested memories and family legends … This book is beautiful’ New York Times Book Review

    A poignant, engrossing triumph’ People

    ‘Elegiac and deeply poignant … A tapestry that’s as complicated, beautiful and flawed as an antique carpet …Chabon is one of contemporary literature’s most gifted prose stylists … In Moonglow, he writes with both lovely lyricism and highly caffeinated fervor’ Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

    ‘Chabon is virtuoso’ Irish Times

    ‘Moving, wry, thoroughly entertaining’ FT

    ‘Much of Moonglow feels Dickensian in style, and as with Dickens it is rich in sentiment. This is to the novel’s credit … Exquisite’ TLS

    ‘Beautifully written … a handsome piece of work’ Philip Hensher, Guardian

    ‘Compelling…Chabon’s storytelling is so characteristically exuberant, the narratives so unfailingly rich’ Telegraph