Moonglow is a fictional memoir of the author's family.
Author: Michael Chabon
Reader Appeal: Adults
The Author states in the very beginning of Moonglow that he “stuck to the facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it.” With that Michael Chabon introduces us to his grandfather -- a man that is larger than life but is dying. The hospice drugs have loosened Grandfather's tongue. He begins telling his grandson stories of his life in no particular order. The author's grandfather is a mix of James Bond and Albert Einstein with a little splash of James Dean. His grandmother, who takes up fewer pages is more damaged. She survived a concentration camp physically but her mind is broken. The Author makes real what mental illness care was like in the sixties. We travel with the family from the 30’s in South Philadelphia to California today. In-between we make stops in Germany during the war, prison, Florida and a few other places in a few other times.
The book at times captured me so tightly I didn’t want to put it down. I was intrigued by these people, I wanted them to be real. That is an author’s job and Chabon excels. But the transitions are jarring, some chapters cover two or three time jumps and if you’re not paying attention you can get lost.
At one point the author's grandfather is clearly agitated from telling war stories and reliving the memories. He asks his grandson “you think this explains everything… you think it explains you… it doesn’t add up to anything, take my word for it. It doesn’t mean anything.”
But it does. We are who we are because of our family or in spite of our family, it’s where we begin to form our own philosophies, values and convictions. Whether they conform with our family or not we all start at home, how we walk from there is up to each individual.
Moonglow is worth reading, the characters are well rounded, the language like all Chabon books is near poetic and the non-linear time line while challenging is worth the effort. After you’ve finished call your parents or your grandparents, offer to buy them coffee or whiskey and ask them to tell you a story.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:
• What was your reaction after reading Moonglow?
• How do you want to be remembered? Why?
• What stories do you want to tell about your life?
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