Jeanette Walls’ Hang the Moon was certainly a a wild ride through a bootlegging southern town, full of family drama and power struggles? This story follows Sallie Kincaid, daughter of the wealthiest merchant in town, as she navigates a tumultuous journey searching for her and her family’s place in their town. Use our Hang the Moon book club questions to get started discussing the many facets of this book including: family structures, domestic violence, women’s roles in society, and the meaning of power and freedom.
Sallie’s journey from being a young washerwoman, to a powerful figure in the county partaking in life and death battles is certainly great fodder for your book club. These Hang the Moon book club questions provide everything you need to explore the drama and family struggles in this book. In addition to the discussion prompts, you get a synopsis, and selected reviews from other readers (will you agree with the reviews?).
If you’d like to find more books like this one, we also include recommendations for 3 books like Hang the Moon.
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Synopsis for Hang the Moon
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
Hang the Moon, Jeanette Walls
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.
10 Hang the Moon Book Club Questions
These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.
- What do you think about what happened to Sallie’s mother, and the lack of punishment for her father?
- What did you think about Sallie and Rawley’s relationship? Did you predict what kind of man he was, or did you think it would end differently?
- Do you think Sallie will end up marrying Tom? What do you think their future looks like?
- “Outlaw. Rumrunner. Bootlegger. Blockader. I don’t for one second forget that what we are doing is illegal, but legal and illegal and right and wrong don’t always line up. Ask a former slave. Plenty of them still around. Sometimes the so-called law is nothing but the haves telling the have-nots to stay in their place.”
Different characters have different opinions on right and wrong, and the importance of the legality of situations. What do you think about them bending the law? Is it okay to do so in some circumstances and not others?
- “Any little girl whose mama disappears will always have a hole in her heart that nothing will ever completely fill.”
A number of characters have lost their mothers for different reasons. How did that affect their children? What about the women who chose to leave their children?
- There are a lot of shocking deaths and tragedies in this story. Which one affected you the most? Which was the most surprising?
- What do you think about Sallie’s view of her father? How did that change as she grew older and learned more about what he was really like?
- What do you think about the prohibition era? Are there parallels between events then and events that happen now with illegal substances?
- There is a tremendous amount of sexism in this era that many of the female characters experience. How were their life choices affected by this? How would their lives have been different if they had the freedom men of the time enjoyed?
- What do you think about all of the dramatic events that happened in the book? Did you find it exciting, or too much?
- BONUS QUESTION: Did you read Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle? If so, how do you think some of her personal experiences informed or inspired the events of Hang the Moon?
Selected Reviews for Hang the Moon
(Use these selected Goodreads reviews to compare with your own experience of the book. Do you agree or disagree with the reviews?)
“Beautiful, literate writing, well-drawn, believable characters. Just a touch of black humour and a book that haunts the thoughts, long after reading. The setting was easy to imagine, Walls’s writing was very atmospheric, and the characters, especially Sallie, will be hard to forget. In fact, the writing, characters and plot were all top-notch. All. The. Stars.”
“The short and (not so) sweet of it is this: nothing in the story is developed. The characters are flat, as flat as the paper they’re written on, and the plot is comprised solely of a series of quick events, one right after the other, with some turns of the story even seeming downright silly. There’s no character growth, no emotion, no tension, no … a lot of things.
In her acknowledgments, Walls alludes that King Henry VIII and his wives and children were the initial inspiration for the novel. And while knowing this does make some of the more ridiculous plot points easier to accept, I still can’t ignore the other flaws of the novel.”
“It all felt familiar. Too familiar. Though the addition of the moonshine war was a unique touch, I feel like I’ve read this book dozens of times. Plucky Gal takes on the world and wins. Yadda, yadda, yadda…”
“This is a fast paced and exciting novel that explores a time when equality for women is pushing its way forward. I loved this book! The storyline was a familiar one with a young girl trying to prove herself amongst doubters, but this was inspired by actual events! MC Sallie, has so much spunk and determination searching for answers while protecting her family…”
Books Like Hang the Moon
If you are keen for more books featuring more brazen outlaw women check out the synopsis in our Outlawed discussion guide.
The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes
Another historical fiction book with strong female characters is The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Set in the Kentucky countryside, it follows newcomer Alice Wright and 3 of her friends as they become packhorse librarians. They must traverse treacherous terrain on horseback to bring library books to remote homes. Through their journeys in the beautiful and brutal terrain, Moyes tells the women’s stories of friendship, love, and perseverance.
If this topic interests you, we’ve got a whole list of books featuring packhorse librarians.
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
For another compelling family drama, check out The Great Alone. This story follows 13 year old Leni, as her dysfunctional family moves to the wilds of Alaska. Through Leni’s journey the reader explores family dynamics, sexism, and domestic violence against the backdrop of a small village and the striking Alaskan landscape.
Read it for book club and use our Great Alone discussion guide.
Last Call, Daniel Okrent
If you’re interested in reading more about the prohibition era, this non-fiction book is a great choice. It includes stories from around the country from the time period, with characters involved in all sides of prohibition. It explores the forces that created prohibition, what life was like underneath it, and how other societal forces affected it, delivered with writing that is witty and enthralling.
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