Jeanette Walls is the author of outstanding memoirs, most notably The Glass Castle. Her new novel, Hang the Moon, is brilliant, and you should read it. My thanks go to Net Galley and Scribner for the review copy. This book is for sale now.
Sallie Kinkaid is born and raised near the turn of the twentieth century in a tiny backwater in Virginia, daughter of its wealthy scion, “Duke” Kinkaid. Her mother has died, and Duke has remarried, and now Sallie has a younger half-brother, Eddie. Sallie is a daredevil, given to occasional recklessness, whereas Eddie has a gentler, more introverted nature, with a love of learning and music. But one day, hoping to awaken some more adventurous aspect of his personality, Sallie takes Eddie out for a ride in her cart, and he is injured. Just like that, Sallie no longer lives with her father; she is cast out to live with an impoverished aunt, and there she remains for nearly a decade.
Sallie is a young woman when she returns, and now she must navigate the shoals of local politics, keeping clear of Duke’s sometimes unpredictable temper. Duke owns nearly every property in the county, and he is deft at doling out favors and keeping the local peace, always in a way that works to his own advantage. Sallie has a hundred questions, some longstanding, and others that develop as she works for her father. However, questions are discouraged in the Kinkaid home. An aunt tells her, “Honey, there are some rocks you don’t want to look under.”
When the local economy is shaken by the unthinkable, Sallie must make some hard choices as she comes into her own. Moonshine has long been an unofficial, yet pivotal way that the local working class makes its living, and when feuds erupt and the government attempts to intervene, Sallie must choose sides. As she comes into her own, she discovers some hard truths about the family she thought she knew. Walls is at her best here, with a strong, resonant setting, a clear, credible plot, and unforgettable characters. This is the sort of book that one comes back to. Highly recommended.