Hang the Moon: A Novel
This is the story of Sallie Kincaid and her family. And oh, what a family. If you are inclined to create a Kincaid family tree as you read, come armed with an oversized sheet of paper, a sharp pencil, and a sturdy eraser. Sallie is the daughter of “the Duke,” the boss in all respects of a Virginia hill country county, owning much that is of value and controlling the rest. Patriarchy rules in the Kincaid family, violated only when there is no son to run the show, and the duke’s wives come and go in his search for a son.
But circumstances require that Sallie, the only living daughter—or so it seems—is retrieved from exile to learn the duke’s business, which is primarily bootlegging, and to help run the county. Sooner than expected, and following considerable infighting and family machinations, she finds herself in charge of the empire.
Among the perks of leadership is ownership of a sleek, powerful Packard automobile. Sallie slides into the driver’s seat, starts the engine, and starts down the lane. “I catch a glance of myself in the rearview mirror. Then I hit the brakes. I’m the same person I saw a few minutes ago in the hall mirror—a bony-faced girl still two months shy of her twentieth birthday, wearing a worn coat and trying to put on a brave front. Driving a shiny, pricey car like this doesn’t make me look the part. I haven’t earned it. I have quite the pair of shoes to fill, and there’s nothing to be gained by announcing to the world that I don’t nearly fill them.”
Tending to business proves a struggle for Sallie. Faced with prohibition enforcers, a blood feud with a rival moonshine trafficking clan, poverty-stricken tenants and sharecroppers, and complications from dissension and division within the family, learning where loyalty lies is an ever-shifting, neverending challenge.
But the bigger challenge is coping with revelations about a family riven with adultery and infidelity, where cousins turn out to be siblings, children are exiled to be raised elsewhere by others, and secrets dark and deep come to light at every turn. As Aunt Faye says in answer to one of Sallie’s inquiries, “Honey, there are rocks you don’t want to look under.”
The biggest challenges of all, however, come as Sallie learns the true nature of the duke, the father she idolized. “The Duke. I spent much of my life with that man inside my head, and for the last two years, I’ve been doing my best to honor his memory, trying to do what he would have done, recalling his words, hearing his voice so clear it was like he was standing right beside me. And yet, all this time I never really knew who he was. This man whose approval I so craved. He loved being loved, but he never truly loved anyone back. He took what he wanted from people, then once he got it, cast them aside.”
But characteristics inherited or learned from the duke enable Sallie to meet most every threat head on, with strength and resilience, with tenacity and resourcefulness. At times she seeks advice and assistance, at times she pushes away support. And one can hardly blame her, as it is often impossible to tell who has her interests at heart and who is attempting to undermine her.
In the end, after weathering seemingly insurmountable difficulties and facing still more, Sallie draws her own conclusions about family: “There are two kinds of family, those you’re born into and those you put together from pieces that don’t go anywhere else, and this is one of those families.” And, “to hell with all this nonsense about who’s a real Kincaid and who’s not, about sons who rule and daughters who serve, about who’s an outsider and who belongs, who’s legitimate and who’s born out of wedlock, who lives in the Big House and who lives in a Sears house and who lives on Hopewell Road.”
Family matters to Sallie Kincaid. But just as she has learned with the family business, making a success of a family requires dedication and determination.