Thursday, April 27, 2023

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls


I finally finished one of the 6 or 7 books I've started in April. Life kept me busy and distracted this month. That didn't keep me from buying more books, though. And checking out books from the library. Here's to May coming at us fast, and a pile of books I'm eager to read. Focus, Sue, focus!

Hang the Moon is the latest novel from Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle. I'll admit right here I have never read The Glass Castle (overexposure during my bookselling years), but I thought this novel, set in early 1920's Virginia would be interesting. And boy howdy, it was!

It took me half-way through before the lightbulb popped on in my head. And it does help if you have some historical knowledge of the world. 

Keep reading, and I'll clue you in....

So, this is the story of Sallie Kincaid and her father, Duke Kincaid. Duke runs their small town, and the surrounding area in the backwoods of Virginia. He is the law; it's his little kingdom. The Kincaids have always taken care of the people and in return expect loyalty. Duke runs the Emporium (grocery store) in town; he sells bootleg whiskey, and he lives in the Big House with Sallie, his third wife Jane, and their small son Eddie. What Duke says and does is the final word. He's a big man and his reach is far.

The novel starts out with a young Sallie trying to teach Eddie how to run her wagon down the hill and over the bridge. She's perfected it, and it's time for Eddie to go for a ride with her. Unfortunately, there's an accident, and Sallie is sent away as punishment. Off she goes to live with her Aunt Faye in a dingy shack miles away, until Jane isn't so angry anymore. 

Eight years pass, and Sallie is called to return to her home. Here's where this novel takes off and it's a rollercoaster of highs and lows, tragedy and violence. Alliances made, enemies all around, and a fight for Sallie's survival. She's only eighteen! But she's the Duke's daughter, and she will do whatever it takes to keep the Kincaid family intact. 

Okay, I'll spill it--this novel is a retelling of Henry the 8th and the reign of Elizabeth I. And it is glorious. Once the lightbulb went off, I began placing characters into the Tudor family tree. It wasn't hard to do. But, if you don't know much about Henry and his daughter, Elizabeth I, you may not get that part, and just enjoy the novel as it is. And that is absolutely fine! But wowza the plot takes on a much deeper meaning when you plug the Tudor family into it. Sallie's deep mourning for her mother, the erasure of her mother's footprint in the Kincaid family; her elder sister Mary and her determination to destroy the bootlegging going on in the community (Catholic Queen Mary and her purges). Heck, the author even managed to fit the Spanish Armada showdown into this--you'll know it when you read it. 

Ooh, Jeannette Walls, what an excellent novel. It got me out of my reading rut, and I'll read anything that reimagines the Tudor soap opera in a new setting. Sallie is such a force, and you can't help but admire her tenacity and grit. Her determination to take care of her community and the people she loves. She doesn't blink. She can't. She's just got to keep moving. 

I can't recommend this novel enough. Book clubs, add it to your list. If you're planning a vacation, add it to your vacation reading list. 

Rating: 5/6 for a clever turn of the Tudor saga, set in bootlegging 1920's Virginia. Strong female characters, plot twists galore, and a main character you'll root for until the final page. A great read!