Hang the Moon

Written by Jeannette Walls
Review by Elizabeth Crachiolo

The plot of this Prohibition-era tale borrows heavily from the real-life history of the Tudor court. The Elizabeth I figure is the spunky heroine Sallie Kincaid, who rises to power in a small Virginia town. Her father, the Duke, is a charismatic Godfather-type who controls a number of the town’s businesses, including bootlegging. This is a refreshingly unique re-envisioning of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and the other major figures from a part of history that has been imagined and reimagined for centuries.

Sallie and the Duke are alike, and they understand each other. That doesn’t stop him from sending her away to please his third wife, Jane, who wants to protect her fragile son from Sallie’s rowdiness. From then on, Sallie is an underdog who must prove her worth. Once the reader grasps the Tudor parallels, it becomes obvious that Sallie will eventually take over the bootlegging business. The question is: how will she carve her own path in the shadow of her larger-than-life father?

Readers of the author’s memoir will recognize some of these family dynamics: the father who looms large, the daughter’s idolization of him, and her eventual struggle to come to terms with his destructive legacy. This is a deceptively light novel that operates movingly on a number of levels as it explores power, misogyny, and the bonds of family.