Reviews: Chabon’s ‘Moonglow,’Morrell’s ‘Ruler’

Associated Press

“Moonglow: a Novel”

By Michael Chabon


"Moonglow" by Michael Chabon; Harper (430 pages, $28.99)

In his latest novel, “Moonglow,” author and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon aims for the moon and successfully touches down on the lunar surface after a journey that leaps across the decades, the story spanning south Philadelphia in the 1930s, Europe ravaged by World War II and the post-war America of the space program before retirement to south Florida.

The story is told through memories passed down to Mike, the narrator, by his mother’s father. Suffering from bone cancer and high on painkillers, Mike’s grandfather reveals “a record of his misadventures, his ambiguous luck, his feats and failures of timing and nerve.” The grandmother’s psychotic episodes — involving fires and fantasy; disappearances and delusions — push Mike’s grandfather to the limit as he struggles to keep the family intact.

Crossing continents and time itself, the story arcs from the search for the scientist who led the Nazi program to build the V-2 rockets that terrorized Britain during the war. At the center of the story is the loving but tortured relationship between the narrator’s grandparents. They met in post-war Baltimore and their marriage bonds suffer from the wife’s traumatic war-time experiences in German-occupied France in the form of hallucinations and acting out. However, the grandfather prepared for her bouts of madness: “She was always threatening rain; he had been born with an umbrella.” The emotional connection between the three generations is told, as we learn of Mike’s relationship with his mother and hers in turn with her parents.

“The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” remains my favorite, but with “Moonglow” you get what you expect from Chabon: an emotional tale of love and loss; fabulous, at times magical, writing; and a story rooted in real-world events told from a unique perspective. “Moonglow” floats through time and space and fires its rockets when required; to blast from Earth’s gravity, to maintain course, to traverse the universe, to carry the reader to a fascinating new world.

— Jonathan Elderfield

“Ruler of the Night”

By David Morrell

(Mulholland Books)

“Ruler of the Night” book jacket

David Morrell’s conclusion to the trilogy featuring Thomas De Quincey is another example of stellar writing and storytelling. In the two previous novels featuring the essayist and opium addict, Morrell has taken the reader on a journey back in time to Victorian London, and in “Ruler of the Night,” he saves the best for last as he centers on a crime that haunted London.

It’s 1855 and transportation by train has just been introduced. Though many are wary of the vehicles that belch black smoke, others are fascinated. When a man is murdered, panic ensues. The crime is brutal, and people begin to grow wary of train travel. Though the real crime Morrell depicts occurred in 1864, the details are accurate.

Fact and fiction blend effortlessly as De Quincey and his daughter Emily search for the culprit. Thomas has been trying to kick his addiction, but he’s struggling. Working with his daughter and their Scotland Yard friends to solve the mystery might help him end his need for opium — or lead him into a dark spiral that could lead to an overdose.

Real historical figures mix with the heroes, and the thriller elements are both terrifying and grotesque. Morrell’s impeccable research shines, as the story feels authentic and vivid. Readers will feel transported to Victorian London with all of the sights and sounds that go with it.

— Jeff Ayers


For the week Ending Nov. 20, 2016.

Hardcover Fiction

1. “Turbo Twenty-Three” by Janet Evanovich (Bantam)

2. “The Whistler” by John Grisham (Doubleday)

3. “No Man’s Land” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing)

4. “Night School” by Lee Child (Delacorte)

5. “Odessa Sea” by Clive Cussler (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

6. “The Mistletoe Secret” by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster)

7. “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing)

8. “Chaos” by Patricia Cornwell (William Morrow)

9. “The Wrong Side of Goodbye” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)

10. “The Sleeping Beauty Killer” by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster)

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly (Harper)

2. “Killing the Rising Sun” by O’Reilly/Dugard (Henry Holt & Company)

3. “Our Revolution” by Bernie Sanders (St. Martin’s Press)

4. “The Magnolia Story” by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines (Thomas Nelson)

5. “Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten (Clarson Potter)