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Hang the Moon: Book summary and reviews of Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls

Hang the Moon

A Novel

by Jeannette Walls

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls X
Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls
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  • Published Mar 2023
    368 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

From Jeannette Walls, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle, comes a riveting new novel about an indomitable young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.

Most folk thought Sallie Kincaid was a nobody who'd amount to nothing. Sallie had other plans.

Sallie Kincaid is the daughter of the biggest man in a small town, the charismatic Duke Kincaid. Born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of comfort and privilege, Sallie remembers little about her mother who died in a violent argument with the Duke. By the time she is just eight years old, the Duke has remarried and had a son, Eddie. While Sallie is her father's daughter, sharp-witted and resourceful, Eddie is his mother's son, timid and cerebral. When Sallie tries to teach young Eddie to be more like their father, her daredevil coaching leads to an accident, and Sallie is cast out.

Nine years later, she returns, determined to reclaim her place in the family. That's a lot more complicated than Sallie expected, and she enters a world of conflict and lawlessness. Sallie confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.

You will fall in love with Sallie Kincaid, a feisty and fearless, terrified and damaged young woman who refuses to be corralled.

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Media Reviews

"Walls's breathtaking latest… The thrilling plot culminates in bombshell revelations… Sallie makes for an indelible heroine.... This is a stunner." —Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"A rollicking soap opera that keeps the pages turning with a surfeit of births, deaths, and surprising plot reveals." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Walls has created a magnetic, irreverent dynamo in Sallie, whose transporting narration is incandescent with incisive observations, moral dilemmas, and startlingly gorgeous descriptions… Hang the Moon is vital, provocative, and intoxicating." —Booklist (starred review)

"Jeannette Walls is a force to be reckoned with… She has indisputably positioned herself as a writer of great worth, and any work of hers is one to be appreciated." —LitHub

"Jeannette Walls created my new favorite hero in her protagonist, Sallie Kincaid. Sallie is sharp, bold, unflinching, and humorous despite, or maybe because of, her hardships." —Jennette McCurdy, #1 bestselling author of I'm Glad My Mom Died

"Unforgettable! Forged in the fire, grit and bone of grand scale storytelling with complex family bonds, betrayals, grief and atonement, Jeannette Walls delivers a richly textured tale full of southern swagger." —Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman's Daughter

"Hang the Moon is Jeannette Walls' masterwork. Young Sallie Kincaid is clever and quick, she's her father's courageous daughter and her mother's vulnerable lost child. Walls writes the people of the mountains of Virginia in their complexities, tangled family bonds and explosive romantic relationships with veracity, verve and humor. Epic in scope, the novel is a thrill ride through Prohibition and change in the American south, where hucksters and opportunists, fallen women and upright moralists kept their secrets to the grave. The prose is elegant and so close to the bone you feel Sallie's heartbeat. Glorious." —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Good Left Undone

This information about Hang the Moon was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cathryn Conroy

A Roller Coaster of a Book! Strap on Your Seat Belt Because This Is a Raucous Literary Ride
If Sallie Kincaid, the 19-year-old lead character in this roller coaster of a book by Jeannette Walls were real, we would be singing ballads written about her. What a character! What a book!

Taking place primarily in the early 1920s in the poor, rural Virginia area of East Appalachia where the scars of World War I are still being felt by those who served, this is the story of Sallie Kincaid—a Tomboy with a capital "T"—and her outsized, powerful, and wealthy father Henry Edward Kincaid, who is known to everyone (even his daughter) as the Duke. (In Sallie's eyes, the Duke "hung the moon and scattered the stars," hence the title of the book.) The Duke has led quite a checkered life with four wives—the first of whom he divorced and second of whom he murdered (and got away with it)—and three children.

Sallie is the middle child, the daughter of the murdered wife, but she is so much like the Duke that he loves and adores her. Still, she has a rough life, being banished from the household at age eight only to return at age 17. Even though he holds no elected office, the Duke absolutely controls Claiborne County, Virginia with his numerous and often shady business dealings and political connections. When it's Sallie's turn at the helm, she is faced with a deadly family feud between the Kincaids and the Bonds, as well as the new laws of prohibition that turn the county's prolific whiskey business, dominated by the Black citizens, into a dangerous bootlegging operation with Sallie in charge.

The magic of the novel is in Sallie's introspective thoughts and conflicts. As she expertly wields a Remington-22 rifle that she bought for $3 as a child and plots ways to strike the Bond family, she is also considering the moral and ethical implications of everything she and others do. All of this becomes quite complicated, considering the life she is leading.

Just a note: I never saw it while I was reading the novel, but in the acknowledgements, author Jeannette Walls says the story was loosely inspired by England's King Henry VIII—his life and his many wives. And yes! The connection is brilliant. The Duke's first name is even "Henry." Clearly, Sallie Kincaid is the double of Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of the beheaded Anne Boleyn.

This book is a winner for two reasons: Sallie is one of the best book characters I have ever encountered, and the plot never lets up with surprise and tragic twists at every turn. Strap on your seat belt because this is a raucous literary ride!


Sallie Kincaid is a modern woman born before her time.
She thought her dad hung the moon, but finally discovered that he was flawed like all humans, perhaps more than others.
To me, it was like the story of the Hatfields and McCoys...two feuding families over land, bragging rights, murder, and unlawful moonshine...interspersed with true accounts of Walls's life.
And Sallie? She emerges from the pages as her father's daughter, strong and resilient with a mind of her own.
I enjoyed it very much as I do all of her other books.


historical fiction and family drama
Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls is a very highly recommended historical fiction and family drama which follows a young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.

Sallie Kincaid is the daughter Duke Kincaid, a wealthy man who owns or runs most of Claiborne County, Virginia. At the Emporium general store he owes, the Duke also sells bootleg whiskey he has received in lieu of rent. Sallie is the daughter of his second wife, who is deceased. She adores her father and his bigger than life personality. His third wife, Jane has a son, Eddie. When she is eight-years-old an accident involving three-year-old Eddie results in, at the behest of Jane, the Duke banishing Sallie to go live with her Aunt Faye.

Nine years later, Jane has died and Sallie is immediately brought back into the family by Duke, ostensibly to teach Eddie. Now, however, Sallie understands more of the world full of secrets, conflicts, and scandals around her and her family. She is determined to never marry and make her own way into the family rental property and bootlegging empire, while navigating the conflicts. Duke quickly marries his fourth wife and life becomes much more complicated following this decision.

The writing is wonderful and the plot is compelling. I was fully engaged in this family drama and the many surprising turns and the surprising revelations within the narrative. There is a tangle of family intrigue, complications, questionable morals, and hidden secrets in Hang the Moon. Even when the many complexities seem to be over the top, the fact that the plot was inspired by the life of Elizabeth I of England, daughter of Henry VIII makes it even better. History buffs will be able to pick up on the similarities to Tudor England.

Sallie is a great fully realized, intelligent, and complex character. Walls portrays both her strengths and weaknesses. She can be fearless, reckless, stubborn, and outspoken, but she is also damaged. Due to the many characters, not all of them are as developed as Sallie, but they all still resemble real people with very different personalities and proclivities.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Scribner via NetGalley.

Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews - A good one
Duke Kincaid was someone you didn't want to cross. He always had to have his way.

Well...his second wife had him not getting his way and having him send away his daughter, Sallie, because his wife said she caused her son to have a terrible accident.

Sallie went to live with her Aunt for nine years…yes, nine years...he never allowed her to come back until his wife died because he needed her to take care of the child who had no mother.

It was an ok return, but not until Sallie asked to be part of the business did her father think she was good for something other than being a man's wife.

Then Eddie died, and things changed.

HANG THE MOON was well written as all of Ms. Wall’s books are.

You will love Sallie for her strength and how she grew as the story unfolded.

It got a bit slow at times, but the story line still held my interest with all its drama.

This book will be enjoyed by those who like books about prohibition, family, and Ms. Wall’s books. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.


very readable not her best
The story is interesting and book is readable but it is almost an exact replica of the Tudors and Henry the Eight. First wife very religious has a daughter Mary. Second wife named Ann is killed by her husband and has a daughter not the promised son. Third wife name Jane has a son Eddie that doesn't live long enough to inherit. Ann's daughter Sallie (not Elizabeth) ends up running the show. Daughter Mary also thinks she is pregnant and is sick with tumor. This is right out of the history books. The names should have been changed at least. Instead of the 1500 it is during prohibition. Good story but too much close to another historical family

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Author Information

Jeannette Walls Author Biography

Jeannette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than eight years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.

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Link to Jeannette Walls's Website

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  • Half Broke Horses jacket
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