Moonglow by Michael Chabon
A Novel

75%

39 Critic Reviews

Chabon’s imagination, and his delight in embracing then overturning genre conventions, are much in evidence here.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Winner of the Sophie Brody Medal • An NBCC Finalist for 2016 Award for Fiction • ALA Carnegie Medal Finalist for Excellence in Fiction • Wall Street Journal’s Best Novel of the Year • A New York Times Notable Book of the Year • A Washington Post Best Book of the Year • An NPR Best Book of the Year • A Slate Best Book of the Year • A Christian Science Monitor Top 15 Fiction Book of the Year • A New York Magazine Best Book of the Year • A San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year • A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year • A New York Post Best Book of the Year

iBooks Novel of the Year • An Amazon Editors' Top 20 Book of the Year • #1 Indie Next Pick • #1 Amazon Spotlight Pick • A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A BookPage Top Fiction Pick of the Month • An Indie Next Bestseller

"This book is beautiful.” A.O. Scott, New York Times Book Review, cover review

Following on the heels of his New York Times bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure—and the forces that work to destroy us.

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 Michael Chabon

See more books from this 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, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Maps & Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle-grade book Summerland. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.
 
Published November 22, 2016 by Harper. 448 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Dec 11 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Moonglow
All: 39 | Positive: 34 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Above average
on Jul 19 2016

He’s 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.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Apr 15 2017

This move can sometimes feel forced. What seduces the reader is Chabon’s language, which reinvents the world, joyously, on almost every page.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by A.O. Scott on Nov 18 2016

Michael Chabon’s new book is described on the title page as “a novel,” in an author’s note as a “memoir” and in the acknowledgments as a “pack of lies.” This is neither as confusing nor as devious as it might sound...Whatever else it is — a novel, a memoir, a pack of lies, a mishmash — this book is beautiful.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Nov 14 2016

Although “Moonglow” grows overly discursive at times, it is never less than compelling when it sticks to the tale of Mike’s grandparents — these damaged survivors of World War II who bequeath to their family a legacy of endurance, and an understanding of the magic powers of storytelling...

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Nov 23 2016

...this is why you read Michael Chabon - for the self-deprecation and insight and brio all packed tight into sentences, fantastic stories and wild novels that you may think are a world away from where you live but always turn out to hit home.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Nov 22 2016

...despite its occasional misfires, Moonglow is an often rollicking, ultimately moving read. It's a love story about shooting for the moon on multiple levels but accepting shortfalls.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Ellen Akins on Nov 18 2016

But we can reflect back to his moment of imagined connection with von Braun, his wish to transmit “the only message lonely slaves of gravity might send: We see you — we are here.” In Chabon’s novel-cum-memoir, we have a profound instance of listening to that message.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Alix Ohlin on Nov 18 2016

Chabon’s prose never falters, but the momentum of the book does. Moonglow devotes as many pages to the grandfather’s old age as it does to his youth.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Shea Hennum on Nov 21 2016

It plunges its hand into the reader’s heart, but it moves too slowly, digs too shallowly. Chabon has produced an excellent novel but not a great one.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt on Dec 21 2016

Inspired by his grandfather’s deathbed confessions, Moonglow is a feast for fans of the Pulitzer winner’s magical prose but less satisfying for lovers of linear narratives.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by LUCY SCHOLES on Jan 25 2017

“In preparing this memoir,” he explains in the author’s note that precedes the work, “I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it.” Whether fact or fiction, it’s undeniably a masterclass in storytelling.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on Nov 28 2016

Chabon doesn’t worry too much about chronology or fancy metaphors, but the “mishmash” of “Moonglow” is definitely rich with meaning.

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Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Donna Seaman on Mar 26 2017

...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.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Above average
Reviewed by Alexis Burling on Nov 18 2016

Inspired by the author’s weeklong visit in 1989 to his mother’s home in California, where his grandfather lay dying, the book is both a hotchpotch stroll down memory lane, and an exercise in exploring the slippery nature of truth, memory and what makes a compelling story.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster on Nov 20 2016

...“Moonglow” inventively fuses family history and fiction but leaves cracks for happiness and meaning to shine through.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Kevin Nance on Nov 22 2016

Moonglow is ingeniously constructed as a memoir, told by the narrator...based on his grandfather’s presumably disjointed deathbed confessions, which resist being forced to make traditional kinds of sense. This gives Chabon and his narrator leeway to leaf at will through chapters of the grandfather’s life...

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20Something Reads

Good
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on Nov 22 2016

In the end, no one but Chabon will ever really know where history and memory end and fiction and metaphor begin in these pages. But at some point it ceases to matter, as those questions are outweighed by the value of these stories, which are so beautifully told.

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Denver Post

Good
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Dec 01 2016

It’s a thoroughly enchanting story about the circuitous path that a life follows, about the accidents that redirect it, and about the secrets that can be felt but never seen, like the dark matter at the center of every family’s cosmos.

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Tampa Bay Times

Above average
Reviewed by Colette Bancroft on Dec 01 2016

In this novel, told in a voice droll and tender and sometimes dark, in language as lovely as its title, Chabon makes those secrets into riches for readers.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Below average
Reviewed by Anne Susskind on Jan 28 2017

Moonglow is a very long book, full of vivid strong characters and imagery, but it loses momentum between the good bits.

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Slate

Above average
Reviewed by Katy Waldman on Nov 30 2016

While Moonglow does pit the streamlined grace of narrative against the chaos of lived experience, Chabon’s such a wizardly craftsman that any number of his spry sentences might be said to contain the secret to his 429-page book.

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The Columbus Dispatch

Good
on Dec 23 2016

Chabon isn't one of those magicians who makes you need to blur your eyes a little to go along with the illusion. Look as closely as you want, he suggests, and you'll still be fooled -- and dazzled.

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Newsday

Good
Reviewed by Marion Winik on Nov 18 2016

I think I could have identified the author of that sentence even if I saw it out of context. The publisher’s official description of this book calls it as “Chabon at his most Chabonesque.” That is just right. And I, for one, could read sentences like that all day.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by A.O. Scott on Nov 20 2016

...less a self-conscious postmodern high-wire act than an easygoing hybrid of forms...Whatever else it is — a novel, a memoir, a pack of lies, a mishmash — this book is beautiful.

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Chicago Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Trine Tsouderos on Nov 21 2016

...while colorful, serve mostly to tell us a lot about a (fictional) person we don't know and a family we will never know...That said, Chabon's writing is lovely, and some readers will enjoy it so much they will forgive the lack of propulsion in the story.

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Irish Times

Below average
Reviewed by Eoin McNamee on Jan 28 2017

When on point, Chabon is virtuoso. The Skinless Horse is “a shadowy, whickering thing”, humanity the “lonely slaves of gravity”. Phrases and images drift through the text, only to be overwhelmed in the blizzard of words when you want them to be fixed, to be given their due. Loveliness gets lost in the inconsequential...

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The New Yorker

Good
Reviewed by Cody Delistraty on Nov 20 2016

“Moonglow” is rich with possible interpretations. It is an intellectual, quasi-academic text filled with digressions on “Gravity’s Rainbow” and V-2 rockets delivered in a hallucinatory haste...

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The Rumpus

Good
Reviewed by CHRISTINE PIVOVAR on Nov 21 2016

...it’s utterly enchanting. Chabon makes you believe, even as you know you’re being pulled along by the romance of a good story. Moonglow is a novel about faith in storytelling itself.

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The Australian

Good
Reviewed by James Bradley on Dec 10 2016

If this description makes it sound overstuffed that’s because it is, but in a good way. Chabon is at his best when he allows himself the space for the sort of narrative and emotional acrobatics that make novels such as the The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay so satisfying, and Moonglow is no exception.

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Salt Lake Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by JONATHAN ELDERFIELD on Dec 09 2016

...an emotional tale of love and loss; fabulous, at times magical, writing; and a story rooted in real-world events told from a unique perspective.

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Kansas City Star

Good
Reviewed by Kevin Canfield on Dec 03 2016

There are funny moments, but Chabon mostly embraces the grief, plumbing it for answers to long-guarded family mysteries. “Moonglow” may not be cheery, but it’s often very powerful.

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Broad Street Review

Above average
Reviewed by Courtenay Harris Bond on Dec 10 2016

...while the novel sometimes veers toward entanglement in the questions it raises and the intricacies of its own plot, Chabon knits together the story, and holds the reader’s attention, with his fluid language and arresting description.

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Moment

Good
Reviewed by EMILY BARTON on Nov 28 2016

Most of all, they’ll enjoy Moonglow’s grappling with moral ambiguity, even as it disturbs them. Characters in this novel may obfuscate the truth, yet the book itself wants to know what the truest version of the Truth might be, however difficult it is to uncover, and once uncovered, to bear.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by ROBERT J. WIERSEMA on Nov 23 2016

Chabon’s imagination, and his delight in embracing then overturning genre conventions, are much in evidence here.

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https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Ian Schwartz on Dec 12 2016

His writing is joyful, his timing and humor have grown only more impeccable, and his characters still live with you long after you turn the final page.

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Ken Kalfus on Jan 27 2017

In his work, Chabon consistently shows unusual affection for his characters. They may be flawed individuals, but their virtues are bestowed generously and their difficulties are lightened by the author’s optimistic sympathy.

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https://lareviewofbooks.org

Above average
Reviewed by Menachem Kaiser on Dec 08 2016

Chabon’s a celebrity — it feels like an interesting move to exploit that. On the other hand, it’s an exasperating dodge of the book’s most pointed flaw — its cartoonish implausibility. The trueness “redeems” the schmaltz, allows the slapstick to be passed off as genuinely dramatic.

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https://bookmunch.wordpress.com

Good
on Feb 13 2017

...there’s a good joke there, right, because he’s retained the mishmash, and we know it because we’ve read it, and yet for all of that, the mishmash is where the truth lies...We’d go as far as saying this might well be Chabon’s best since Kavalier & Clay.

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https://litreactor.com

Good
Reviewed by DEAN FETZER on Nov 22 2016

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I never lost interest, possibly because, as I said, Chabon still knows how to tell a story. He knows what to do to keep a reader interested, unlike so many “literary” authors who don’t seem to grasp the concept.

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Reader Rating for Moonglow
74%

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