It took a while to get into this one. As I was about to give up, I cheated and skipped to the final chapter, read three sentences, squished my face into an "aww man" and decided I had to know how they got from where I was (chapter 13-ish?) to there. So I turned back with some real chagrin and read on.
The more I read, the more I liked the story and the more I liked the story, the more I liked almost everyone involved in this family -- Chabon's family? Good question. I note that it won awards for fiction, but it seems like nonfiction-y fiction or fictionalized nonfiction, or some blend of the two. It's essays, a novel, biography, historic, dramatic, funny and a bunch of other stuff: like a family, I guess. Is it sad? Well, only in the way that everyone's life has some sadness and grief involved. It's not sad overall though, not by a long shot.
Moonglow is a wild ride that starts at the bedside of one man dying which turns into a lifetime, a family's story, a very American story - complete with redemptive arcs, great scenes of cities I love, and real vitality. It feels so real because of the little details and the nuances that I haven't found in Chabon's other work. It's very different from the other work in some ways, yet there's always those metaphors. Apparently he inherited that ability, says the [fictionalized nonfiction-ish] grandfather.
It's clear that Chabon has a very close understanding of the convoluted underpinnings, including street names, neighborhoods, buildings, businesses, and a real love of the family about which he writes. I wish I'd felt the love before I did. It took me a long time to care about these people. I felt rather divorced from the story being told for far too long. It goes on wild tangents -- sometimes they work beautifully (the story of the snake hunting is a prime example of a beautiful tangent that tells a lovely tangent of a story that tells us important things about the main character) and sometimes they just fell flat for me. It was during one of those moments that I almost abandoned the book.
I'm not a skimmer, thank goodness. If one skims in this story, one will miss something that turns out to be vital many pages later. Not in the sense of "what?" but more in the sense of why it matters. I'd imagine it's hard to write a story where all at once you're in the present and past, explaining why someone is finally telling you things you've been angry at them for not telling your whole life. Perhaps this fictionalized way was the only way to get some of this family's secrets out?
It's very hard to believe this is plain ole fiction - no matter how good. (Unless maybe that explains all the awards.) I doubt it's for everyone. I thought it wasn't for me, but I found myself wishing I'd known the family of the narrator (who is never called Michael Chabon, but who has a very similar life to Michael Chabon.) I'm glad I read it, and I was sorry when it ended. I've moved on, but the characters and their warm spirits - especially an awkward, flawed, yet fiercely loving grandfather -- will stay with me for a long time.