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.
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, Moonglow, 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.
“Keeping secrets was the family business” says the narrator of this faux memoir by Michael Chabon, an entrancing, utterly convincing, gorgeously written, and structurally complex excavation of these family secrets, particularly those of his maternal grandparents. Zigzagging across time and geography, the narrative arc determined by the logic of memory, Moonglow is a fantastically imaginative testament to all that is harrowing and joyous in human life.
In Moonglow, the purported memoir of his grandfather’s varied and fascinating life on either side of the Atlantic, before and after WW2, Michael Chabon offers a meditation on truth and perception, memory, storytelling and family secrets. His prose is back on form, seamless, picturesque and heartbreaking, with so many quotable nuggets that it is almost impossible to pick one from the treasury.