Nearly everyone I know has read at least one and loved at least one of Michael Chabon's novels (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys, etc), but until Moonglow, somehow his work passed me by. I found the story interesting, a "faux" memoir told in an unique way, and Chabon's writing beautiful albeit wordy and quite "writerly". His writing is so unusually delicious that at times I found myself reading for his word choice and descriptions rather than the story line.
Moonglow is the memoir of Chabon's grandfather narrated to the author by his grandfather during the last week of life unhinged by pain medication--“I showed up to say goodbye...just as Dilaudid was bringing its soft hammer to bear on his habit of silence.” The story is patchy, does not flow chronologically, and sometimes too elaborative on specifics about WWII or rocket building for my taste. Yet, the jumps in the story from the war to his marriage to a stent in jail to his obsession with rockets reflect the randomness of life and the need of a dying man to make some sense of it all. The story line of his marriage was of particular fascination to me. Upon his return from war, grandfather meets a French refugee at a synagogue party and is immediately attracted to her magnetism. She is already a mother of a young girl (the narrator's mom) and harrowingly haunted by visions of a “skinless horse” that hint at her Holocaust trauma. Her mental illness will ultimately bring an end to their love story.
The book is dense, the writing amazing. I struggled at times to get through certain scenes that I did not find particularly interesting, but overall I liked the book and found its description of life, love, and war powerful. I will close with my favorite line which happened to be the last line of the novel, "He lay there with his eyes closed for a long time after that, sculling along the surface of the sea of pain a little nearer toward his story's end or maybe...toward the story on the opposite shore that was waiting to begin."
I will be reading more by Michael Chabon.