Michael Chabon is no stranger to strangeness. His novels are a cavalcade of oddballs and unusual circumstances, from the relocated Jews in Alaska of Yiddish Policeman’s Union to the comic-book artists of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. His latest opus may seem from a logline to be a more conventional offering, but in structure and detail it is just as unusual as any of his other novels.
The novel purports itself to be a memoir of a writer named Michael Chabon learning his grandfather’s life story during the last few weeks of his life. To what extent the character and the writer Michael Chabon overlap is not disclosed to the reader, nor is the veracity of the grandfather’s extraordinary exploits.
True or not, the adventures of Chabon’s grandfather are the stuff of great fiction. Though Chabon tells the story out of order in supposed fealty to the rambling style of his fictional relative, the tale includes service in WWII, falling in love with a refugee, prison service, mental illness, financial setbacks, and loss. The moon is a constant presence in the life of Chabon’s grandfather, from his youthful obsession with reaching its surface to his war-time search for the Nazi scientists who would eventually get America there.
Moonglow is a mixture of the best of contemporary literary fiction with the innovative narrative techniques you expect from a novelist of Chabon’s stature. Despite a tendency toward verbosity that occasionally causes the eyes to glaze over at a wall of text, Moonglow’s captivating plot makes it feel like a work of literature that will last for generations.