25 Books to Read This December
In 1989, Chabon traveled to his mother’s house in Oakland, where his grandfather lay dying of cancer. For a week, the young Chabon listened as this usually reserved man, hopped up on painkillers, poured out the story of his life, much of which he’d never shared with his grandson. Nearly 30 years later, Chabon here revisits those yarns and spins them into gold, producing a tale that is at once myth and ode. Moonglow is an exuberant meld of fiction and family history that opens with the grandfather’s deathbed confession. The novel cuts back and forth in time and spans decades—from walk-up tenements in gritty Depression-era Philadelphia to midcentury Manhattan skyscrapers to late-’80s stucco condos in Florida—its imagery sparkling on each page, reflecting influences ranging from the Space Age to sitcoms to Philip Roth. Chabon peels back his grandfather’s stolid facade to reveal the delicate emotions beneath. But it’s the caliber of his writing—evocative sentences and indelible metaphors—that gives the novel its luster, as in the moment when his grandparents meet: “The girl’s lips were painted red as Bicycle hearts and diamonds, and they parted to reveal an Ingrid Bergman smile to go with the sunglasses. My grandfather heard a sound inside his head that he compared, years later, to the freight train rumble of an earthquake.... Swept off his feet, he thought. This is that.” Moonglow prisms through a single life the desires and despair of the Greatest Generation, whose small steps and giant leaps continue to shape us all.