Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling 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 of the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.
Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather". It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, 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 the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies.
A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched, and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the 20th century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines, and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy's Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, 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, Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and 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 daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.
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Wonderful novel, terrible narrator
Michael Chabon is Jewish. I'm Jewish. If the narrator is Jewish, you could have fooled me. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a problem, but when the novel's narrator and subject matter is avowedly Jewish but the audiobook narrator sounds like he's never hung out with Jews or been inside a Jewish place of worship (therefore mispronouncing Hebrew words in a way that even the most occasional of synagogue- or temple-going Jews would experience like fingernails on a blackboard), the performance becomes a distraction. Too bad. The novel is great. It deserves better.
NO AUDIOBOOK SHOULD BE RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC THAT HAS NOT BEEN LISTENED TO BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO PRONOUNCE ALL ENGLISH WORDS CORRECTLY AND ALSO HOW TO PRONOUNCE THE WORDS IN OTHER LANGUAGES THAT APPEAR IN THE TEXT. Really, it's not that hard.
- Joyce M. Bernheim
Loved the book. Winced at the pronunciation.
The narrator was great with the exception of those words that were unfamiliar to him. There were some egregious errors, including his pronunciation of "Kaddish" and the drug estradiol, which made me cringe each and every time they came up. I wish he had asked for a lifeline or googled the words before performing this book.
- lisa cole