Thursday, November 3, 2016

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Sometimes I finish a book, and I loved it, but I feel too puny a mind to say anything to do it justice. I just am not learned enough, wise enough, deep enough. I am at a loss for words.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon sat on my Edelweiss shelf for 45 days until I could finally make a space to read it, read 'out of order', as I read based on a book's publication date.

I have enjoyed all the novels I've read by Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Wonder Boys, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I have The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Telegraph Avenue on my TBR shelf. (The real books bookshelf, not ebooks!) And I'd been hearing a buzz that Moonglow is Chabon's best book yet.

Chabon makes me laugh. That's golden. Especially in a novel about the effect of war on the lives of the narrator's grandparents, where happiness is found 'in the cracks' between failure and mental health breakdowns, and heroes are found to be villains, and fiction is better than knowing the truth.

Stories told to Chabon by his terminally ill grandfather inspired Moonglow. In the novel, a grandfather reveals what had remained unspoken, a gift for his grandson (Chabon) to turn into an orderly account, with the admonition to 'make it mean something.'

His fictionalized grandfather, a Drexel Tech graduate, joined the Army Corps of Engineers before WWII; his wartime experiences leaves him with a 'form of spiritual aphasia' and searching for purpose. He meets a beautiful girl, another victim of the war, who has a daughter, and struggles for mental stability. Together they hope to 'fly to the moon', but the journey is fraught with crash landings and heartbreak.

The back story is told in bits and pieces, interwoven with stories from other time frames, slowly revealing the grandfather's history.

"You think this explains everything?" the grandfather queries, "Me and your grandmother. Your mother. My time in prison. The war." The grandson replies, "It explains a lot." "It explains nothing,,,It's just names and dates and places," the grandfather retorts, "It doesn't mean anything." And then he adds, "I'm disappointed in myself. My look back and you see all you did with all that time is waste it." And the grandson sums it up, "Anyways it's a pretty good story."

Which is all we can ask from life. A pretty good story in spite of the failures, dreams deferred, the heartbreak, and the craziness.

See photos that inspired Chabon while writing Moonglow at:

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

by Michael Chabon
Publication Nov. 2, 2016
$28.99 hard cover
ISBN: 978006222559

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