Title: Hang the Moon
Author: Jeannette Walls
Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format read: Audiobook
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I received an Audiobook Listening Copy (ALC) of this book from the Libro.fm Influencer Catalogue in exchange for an honest review
I knew nothing about this book before I started it, seeing only Jeannette Walls’ name and decided that was enough to make the book worth the read. Hang the Moon is a story of a young adult woman (18 at the start) coming into her own during the Prohibition era. Born to the most prominent family in town, Sallie Kincaid is exiled to her aunt’s house when her father remarries, and then brought back home after her death. It’s from there that the book really kicks off, exploring the story of how the town copes with death and fills the power dynamics hole that is created when a leader dies.
While the historical fiction genre is a tad bit oversaturated with “strong young woman who doesn’t want marriage” characters, Walls managed to make this book different by making the general Kincaid family—and the town—a character as well. The main focus is Sallie growing up, but we also see the town growing and changing as well. I was rooting for Sallie, but I was also rooting for the town to succeed. No matter what happened, I wanted the Duke, Mattie, Sallie, Mary, and everyone else to do right by Clayborn County.
There was a strong focus on social justice politics, from the way women are treated to the way Black members of the town are treated. Sallie was, of course, always on the right side of these political debates, but the way she learns about various secrets and the way she reacts to them felt extremely accurate to an 18 year old girl. For the majority of the book, Walls managed to make her point about the protection of women, and make that a major point of the novel, without endowing Sallie with knowledge that would be unrealistic for her to know. In the last few chapters, she emphasized the “roads help women” narrative a bit too much for my taste.
I don’t know much about the prohibition in general, so I cannot speak to how accurate this book is compared to what actually happened, but I can say that I enjoyed reading about this particular town’s dynamics. The way inheritance works in the Kincaid family, which laws actually matter, and more. It was riveting; the plot was constantly moving, and that only served to characterize everyone and everything even more strongly. The characters were well developed and three dimensional characters, and together each of those characters created a sometimes thriving and sometimes struggling town.
It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I realized the parallels to the Tudor story of Anne and Mary Boleyn. Once I realized this, the entire story felt a bit cliched, considering this parallel comes up far too often in literature, but it was done subtly enough, and with enough other plot around it, that it still works. The multiple marriages of the Duke relied on Tudor history perhaps a bit too strongly, but as a self-contained story I enjoyed it.
I listened to an audiobook copy of this book on Libro.fm, and I deeply enjoyed it. It’s narrated by the author, which is always my favorite way to listen to a book. There’s plenty of Virginia Prohibition-era terms in the book, and Sallie obviously speaks with a southern drawl, so hearing Walls’ read it helped me get into the story.
I would recommend this book; even with some of the cliches, it was a can’t put down read!