I don’t just read a book. I develop a relationship with the author. If I love the book, I fall in love with its writer. From that point on this author is a part of my life, and I wait impatiently for his next book. I take it personally if the book is not up to the standards I set for that author. I celebrate if the author rewards my wait by taking his craft to the next level. He is my family now.
When I was young, I enjoyed experiments with form. Now, it’s all about a story — and Michael Chabon is a great storyteller. We have a history together. He “got me at hello” with Wonder Boys about 20 years ago. But he won a very special place in my heart with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. That book turned my 15-year-old son into a serious reader.
Moonglow is Chabon’s new novel. It may or may not be a memoir. It’s a compilation of stories told by a dying grandfather to his writer grandson. It has the feel of a memoir, but at the same time, like a photograph put through an Instagram filter, every story is a bit touched-up, enhanced, too crafted for a true memoir.
I love when extraordinary events happen to ordinary people. Moonglow is all about extraordinary: war, jail, mental asylum, Holocaust, moon travel, V2 rockets and their Nazi creator, true love, snake hunt, late-in-life romance — all parts of an interesting life lived by a regular guy.
Grandpa (we never learn his name) is normally a reticent man. He is near the end of his battle with cancer, and under the influence of strong painkillers he opens up to his grandson for the first time. There is no chronology to his storytelling. Like pieces of brightly colored glass in a kaleidoscope create a different ornament every time it’s shaken, each new story changes “the big picture” of the man we are getting to know. Each story answers some questions, but at the same time begs new ones. The biggest one of all: how are we and our lives affected by our family history? We’ve all asked that question at one point or another.
While I enjoyed reading Moonglow, I wasn’t smitten. Some good editing would’ve been beneficial. It seemed to me the narrative was crumbling into pieces. Splendid pieces, but pieces nonetheless.
If you’ve never read Michael Chabon, I recommend you start with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and do Wonder Boys after. That way you’ll know what he is capable of. If you have already read those two, then Moonglow definitely wouldn’t be a waste of time.
And while Moonglow hasn’t made my “best of” Chabon list, I can hardly wait for his next novel!
“Moonglow” by Michael Chabon is published by Harper.
Reviewer Vicka Pevzner has lived in State College for 25 years and is originally from Russia. She is a programmer at Penn State Work Lion.