Hang the Moon Book

Book Review: Hang the Moon by Jeanette Walls

Delve into the complexities of family dynamics with Hang the Moon, a captivating novel set in the Prohibition era. Read this review to discover why this book is a must-read for anyone looking for their next Historical Fiction fix.

Hang the Moon book

Hang the Moon Summary

Hang the Moon is a tale that narrates the life story of Sallie Kincaid, set during the Prohibition period in Virginia. Sallie’s father, The Duke, an influential figure in a small county, is the center of her world. She strives to make him proud of her. Unfortunately, an accident forced The Duke to send Sallie away to her aunt’s house.

After nine years, Sallie returns home at her father’s behest, but not everyone is happy to see her. Sallie sets out to prove that she is a Kincaid, deserving to be on the side of The Duke, and that can do a man’s work.

“People choose their own fates.”

The Duke

Hang the Moon Review

The book Hang the Moon uses a first-person narrative style, with Sallie as the narrator. She shares both current events and recollections from her childhood, allowing readers to experience her life firsthand. Sallie’s story covers her struggles with her stepmother, adapting to a less comfortable lifestyle with her aunt, and returning to her father’s home, where all eyes are on her. This storytelling technique also ensures that the pace of the story remains engaging, avoiding any dull moments for readers. 


The character of Sallie Kincaid in Hang the Moon is loosely based on a real-life person named Willie Carter Sharpe, who was famous for driving a liquor caravan down mountains. However, Sallie’s character is much more than just a skilled driver. Upon closer examination, readers will discover a young woman who deeply loves and admires her father. Sallie is determined to make her father proud. Unfortunately, this blind devotion leads her to make a mistake that results in an accident. And her subsequent exile to live with her aunt in poverty. Despite the challenges she faces, Sallie has an unyielding spirit and shows great determination in overcoming adversity. As a protagonist, she is definitely someone worth rooting for.

In Hang the Moon, The Duke is a symbol of the patriarchal system exhibiting control over his household as well as the entire county. The Duke is primarily concerned with his own interests as seen through Sallie’s eyes towards the end of the novel.

On the other hand, Aunt Faye, Sallie’s mother’s sister, represents the exploited helpers who suffer at the hands of their employers. Ostracized by society and labeled as a “fallen woman”, she resorts to selling herself in desperate time.

 Mary Kincaid Canon, Sallie’s older sister, embodies the religious revivalism of the time and aims to eradicate bootlegging in Claiborne County. Lastly, Abraham Crockett symbolizes the racism against African Americans, evident in his treatment and his tragic end. 

Dialogue, Setting & World-building

The author has skillfully maintained the authenticity of the dialogue in the book, keeping it in line with the time and place where the story takes place. The author subtly hinted any variations in languages used, ensuring that the story’s flow remains uninterrupted and engaging.

Hang the Moon is set in Claiborne County, Virginia, where the reader is given a vivid portrayal of the minutiae of the houses, unpaved roads, vehicles, and attire. The social hierarchy of the small town is perceptible with disparities evident in clothing, food, and vehicles that harken back to the 1920s. Sallie’s narration impeccably weaves all of these elements together.


The theme of family is central in Hang the Moon. It delves into the dynamics of the Kincaid family through Sallie’s relationships with her father, aunts, and siblings. The story explores the marital relationships of The Duke and his extramarital affairs and the consequences that follow. Furthermore, the book highlights the gender-based discrimination prevalent in the family, wherein women are not entitled to inheritance. 

The story showcases the depth of a mother’s love through the characters of Aunt Faye, Mattie, Jane, and Sallie’s mother. It also highlights the absence of such affection in Kat’s situation. This narrative beautifully captures the contrasting experiences of maternal love. 

The Kincaids may have their disagreements, but Sallie’s loyalty to her family never wavered. Even when she feels hurt, she chooses to forgive bringing them closer together. Her commitment to her family is admirable.


Hang the Moon is full of surprises as it portrays numerous conflicts that keep the readers engaged. These conflicts mainly revolve around the Kincaid family’s internal disputes, community conflicts, and rivalries between two families. The author cleverly conflicts into the plot making the story captivating.

“There are two kinds of brave people in this world, it hits me, those who fight and those who protect the ones who can’t fight.” 

Sallie Kincaid

Reading Enjoyment

Reading Hang the Moon by Jeanette Walls was an absolute pleasure. The use of first-person narration made the entire story flow smoothly, keeping me thoroughly engaged until the very end. The novel managed to stay true to the period it was set in, with its authentic dialogue, social norms, and overall setting. The conflicts that arose throughout the book were both dramatic and action-packed. Even though the novel is rich in its historical context of the Prohibition era, the main theme of the story is centered around family dynamics. The complex relationships, expectations, and interactions that occur within a family are all encompassed within the pages of this novel. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

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