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Hang the Moon


Hang the Moon

Jeannette Walls, who is best known for her family memoir THE GLASS CASTLE, weaves a riveting, rollicking Prohibition-era tale populated by complicated, multilayered characters in HANG THE MOON.

When Sallie Kincaid was eight years old, she thought that her father, Duke, hung the moon…probably literally, knowing his power and influence. The erstwhile king of Caywood, located in Claiborne County, Virginia, Duke owns and runs the Emporium, the town's beating heart, where people go to shop, gossip, form alliances and make amends.

"HANG THE MOON succeeds on so many levels that it feels impossible to mention them all, but Walls’ construction and styling of her female characters is at the top of the list."

As the operator of Kincaid Holdings --- a “diversified corporation with a variety of operations” that comprises the store, the warehouse, the lumber mill, and most of the rental properties housing the town’s families --- and the chairman of the Democratic Party, Duke has his hands in everything. As he explains to Sallie, being the boss is a tough, thankless job. It involves solving everyone’s problems, handing out punishments, and always being three steps ahead while putting on the nicest, kindest face possible. Yet there’s also nothing better than being the boss.

But nine years have passed since Sallie looked up to her father. During that time, she was cast out of her family home by Duke's wife, Jane, following a tragic accident that put her little brother Eddie’s life at risk. Now Jane is dead, and Sallie has been welcomed back. But this time she’s not a little girl --- she’s almost a woman. And despite Duke’s stubborn belief that his son should be the heir to his empire, it’s Sallie who is most like him in sense, spirit and style. She just has to bide her time…and avoid Duke’s attempts to marry her off the way he has done with most of the women he finds in need of support.

As Sallie reinserts herself into the Kincaid house, Walls gives readers a quick history lesson on Prohibition. Despite the recent passing of the law, Prohibition has not yet taken hold in Virginia. With the town full of corn farmers and other down-on-their-luck individuals, Duke has taken to accepting homemade whiskey for rent payments and then selling the whiskey to make a quick buck himself. All bootlegging business dealings take place at the Emporium where Duke, along with his right-hand man, Cecil, accepts merchandise and payments and solves the town’s problems one citizen at a time. He’s not lawful, but he’s good, and he cares for the people of Caywood like no one else does --- not their mayor, not their sheriff, and certainly not their country.

Sallie knows that earning Duke’s respect as an equal won’t be easy, but she is a hard worker and before long is under his employ as his rent collector and errand runner. Already the princess of this small, tight-knit town, Sallie’s work driving to rental properties and on the dirt backroads gives her an even closer look at Caywood --- from its alcoholic men and teary wives to its Black community and even the Bonds, a rival family known for their “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality. Cool as a cucumber and sharp as a tack, Sallie deals with Caywood much like her father does --- with love, but also with a firm hand. With Prohibition crackdowns circling the small, whiskey-fueled (in more ways than one) town, Sallie and her father make a good team.

But from Eddie's accident to Jane's death, tragedy is circling the Kincaid family. Although Duke remarries, his hold on his family is slipping. And when Duke himself becomes the victim of a sudden accident, the Kincaid empire starts to crumble. When it is finally Sallie’s turn to wear the crown, the questions she has been debating her whole life --- right and wrong, legal and illegal, just and unjust --- take on a new relevance, and she is forced to make a choice to save her beloved town and its people.

HANG THE MOON succeeds on so many levels that it feels impossible to mention them all, but Walls’ construction and styling of her female characters is at the top of the list. Tough, independent and sharp, Sallie continuously defines and redefines her own womanhood, refusing to let generations of oppression stand in her way.

Along with being a Prohibition-era novel --- with all the rum-running, sharpshooting and country justice one would expect --- the book draws parallels to Tudor England. Readers will delight in the comparisons between Duke and King Henry, Sallie’s sister Mary and Bloody Mary, and even Duke’s attempt at an heir in his son. Finally, Walls fills in the spaces between her shining, unforgettable characters and her immersive setting with eternal, timely questions about right and wrong, morality, family, and what it means to show up for your community.

Soaring, undeniably fun and full of shocking plot twists, HANG THE MOON and its indelible protagonist are simply irresistible.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 31, 2023

Hang the Moon
by Jeannette Walls

  • Publication Date: March 28, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1501117297
  • ISBN-13: 9781501117299