Set in Minneapolis during the Great Depression, McInerny’s novel tells the story of Horton Moon, whose love of drink and women leads to his downfall.
Moon’s life is something short of perfect. He has a job, but it doesn’t pay nearly enough; with four kids and a fifth on the way, he’s struggling. He loves his wife, Annie, and most of the time they get along, but she doesn’t like how much time he spends drinking at the neighborhood bar. Then Moon meets and falls in love with Caroline, a young woman freshly arrived from the prairie. Though he never stops loving Annie, he takes up with Caroline; it isn’t long before Annie learns of the affair. Things are bleak, and when Moon loses his job, they grow bleaker. That’s when he decides to take his friend Peterson up on his offer to partner together for a robbery. It seems to go well, and Moon is relieved to be suddenly flush with money—until he learns that the guys they stole from want him dead. For a while, Moon goes underground, living among the hard-luck guys at the poor end of town before leaving the city, but for him, Minneapolis is home. So, he comes home to face his fate. With the exception of a short prologue and epilogue, Moon draws readers in while narrating in the present tense, and McInerny’s simple, spare style captures the feel of 1930s Minnesota. In describing a key character, Moon says, “There’s a history between Uncle Jack Morrison and myself that I maybe need to spell out right here. I don’t like Jack. And he doesn’t like me.” The short prologue introduces an element of mystery that will keep readers guessing until almost the very end of the novel. As the prologue states, the real story is that of Moon and how he changed; though the novel is essentially a character study, it avoids the dull, self-indulgent style that can sometimes weigh down similar novels. McInerny balances Moon’s moments of introspection with bursts of action that keep the pace quick and the pages turning.
This tale of a flawed man in a gritty setting manages to be both intense and beautiful.