Moonglow is a faux memoir of Michael Chabon’s maternal grandfather who had a life of an engineer, was a veteran, and even a felon. At often times hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel shines with Chabon’s typical lyrical-ism of language, metaphors, and existentialism.
“In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, 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.”
The novel is in many ways a tour-de-force of speculative fiction. As a reader, you know that some of what Chabon writes about does happen, but under his prose style, he expands the stories and creates new narrative that blurs the lines between fiction and biography. One of the novels major themes is that we sometimes don’t know the full story of family. “Truth and lies, family legends” are built on a house of cards and it seems all it takes is the knowledge of impending death to release the hounds of yesterday onto the world.
Moonglow offers a dark look into Chabon’s family past, but it carries some morose humor with some often gripping, and poignant scenes as the writer “Michael Chabon” unwinds the vines of the past in this fictional non-fiction autobiography that unfolds like a Russian nesting doll.