Moonglow A novel

Michael Chabon

Book - 2016

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FICTION/Chabon Michael
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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2016]
Main Author
Michael Chabon (author)
First edition
Physical Description
430 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

THEY CAN'T KILL US ALL: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives, by Wesley Lowery. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $16.99.) As a journalist with The Washington Post covering race and law enforcement, Lowery reported on highprofile deaths including those of Michael Brown, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and followed the Black Lives Matter movement. His book chronicles the movement as well as his evolution and outlook as a reporter. THEY MAY NOT MEAN TO, BUT THEY DO, by Cathleen Schine. (Picador, $16.) After her husband's death, Joy, 86, worries about becoming a burden and being sent offto a nursing home. Her children fret about helping her stave offloneliness and despair, until the return of Joy's old flame sends them into a frenzy. Schine handles death, aging and infirmity with candor and wry humor. TRUE BELIEVER: Stalin's Last American Spy, by Kati Marton. (Simon & Schuster, $17.) A privileged American who worked for the State Department, Noel Field joined the underground Communist movement in the 1930s, before being groomed by Soviet intelligence. Marton charts his transformation from an idealist to Stalinist hard-liner, tracing his ideology to what he saw as failures of capitalism. THE STORY OF A BRIEF MARRIAGE, by Anuk Arudpragasam. (Flatiron, $14.99.) Dinesh is one of hundreds displaced by Sri Lanka's civil war, helping bury the dead in a refugee camp during the final months of the conflict. An unexpected marriage thrusts him into new, unexpected intimacies, all while surrounded by the churn of violence and death. This debut novel is "a book that makes one kneel before the elegance of the human spirit and the yearning that is at the essence of every life," Ru Freeman wrote here. MAKERS AND TAKERS: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, by Rana Foroohar. (Crown Business, $17.) The recovery after the 2008 crash has been the slowest and weakest of the postwar era, Foroohar, a Financial Times columnist, observes, and finance has stopped serving the real economy. She suggests ways to reverse course and ensure that middle-class Americans and small businesses aren't leftbehind. MOONGLOW, by Michael Chabon. (Harper Perennial, $16.99.) Drawing on his grandfather's deathbed confessions, Chabon has written a hybrid novel based on his grandparents' unlikely marriage (she a French Holocaust survivor, he an American Jew who served in World War II). The story is a lyrical portrait of postwar United States, with digressions on the supernatural and space travel.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* A young writer named Michael Chabon listens in breath-held astonishment as his ailing grandfather, whose lifelong reticence has been vanquished by strong painkillers, tells the hidden stories of his past. The real-life Chabon (Telegraph Avenue, 2012), a master of the ravishing sentence and the entrancing tale, creates, in his most beautifully realized novel to date, avidly realized scenes of mayhem and enchantment as his narrator's ingenious and intractable maternal grandfather, an electrical engineer obsessed with moon missions, recounts his hardscrabble South Philly boyhood, clandestine adventures in WWII Germany tracking down Nazi scientists (especially the man behind the V-2 rocket, Wernher von Braun), and his severely tested love for a deeply damaged French Holocaust survivor. A warrior to the end, he also regales his attentive grandson with hilarious incidents of more recent vintage involving his courting a neighbor at an assisted-living community in Florida by hunting a python she fears has devoured her cat. As towering a figure as the grandfather is, all of Chabon's characters are complex and commanding, including his alter-ego narrator's pragmatic attorney mother, who, as a stoic only child, was left with her Uncle Ray, a rabbi turned hustler, after her mother's harrowing struggle with her demons (so eerily dramatized) led to her being institutionalized, and her father's volcanic rage delivered him to prison. Chabon's grandly arching plot encompasses everything from early television to a moment of stargazing awe shared (between bombardments) by a German priest and a Jewish American soldier to the grim symbiosis between science and war crimes as America's military striving gives rise to the space program. All areenacted beneath the bewitching light of the moon, which summons romance (Moonglow, a jazz standard, offers the refrain: It must have been moonglow / That led me straight to you), madness, and the high tides of war and ambition. Grandfather tells grandson, After I'm gone, write it down. Explain everything. Make it mean something. Chabon succeeds. By deftly infusing each spellbinding page with historical facts entertaining and tragic, effervescent imagination, exceptional emotional intricacies, striking social insights, brilliantly modulated drama, canny wit, and profound and uplifting empathy and compassion, Chabon has created a masterful and resounding novel of the dark and blazing forces that forged our tumultuous, confounding, and precious world. Expect the cross-country author tour to get literary-fiction readers buzzing.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A faux memoir of the novelists grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.When Michael Chabon, the narrator of this novel, was growing up, his maternal grandparents were steeped in mystery and mythology. His grandmother was a tight-lipped Holocaust survivor with a fixation on tarot cards, while his grandfather was a World War II Army officer whod also done time in prison. The novel is largely Chabons (Telegraph Avenue, 2012, etc.) effort to understand his grandfathers wilder escapades. Why did he try to strangle a former business partner with a telephone cord? What was he thinking when he and a buddy in the Army Corps of Engineers prankishly set explosives on a bridge in Washington, D.C.? What did he feel while he hunted down Wernher von Braun in Germany? And, more tenderly, what did he see in the young girl he met in Baltimore after returning home from the war? A study in intellect, violence, and displacement, his grandfather is engaging on the ground level while also serving as a kind of metaphor for Cold War America. And Chabon writes tenderly about his grandparents relationshiphis grandmother was a horror-flick host on local TV and suffered from mental illness her husband was ill-equipped to handle. Chabons theme is the storytelling (i.e., lies) people lean on to survive through complicated times: The world, like the Tower of Babel or my grandmothers deck of cards, was made out of stories, and it was always on the verge of collapse. A noble enough theme, but Chabon is an inveterate overwriter who dilutes his best storytelling with more ponderous digressionson the manufacture of the V-2 rocket, model-making, Thomas Pynchon, and the relationships his widowed grandfather pursued before his death. Hes captured a fine story about the poignancy of two souls survival but also too many others about plenty else besides.A heartfelt but sodden family saga. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.