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Book Club Questions for Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls

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Book club discussion questions for Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls explore the complexities of family relationships and societal expectations of women in the early 20th century,

Hang the Moon follows the life of Sallie Kincaid, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man in a small town. After a tragic accident, Sallie is cast out of her family but returns years later to reclaim her place. Throughout the book, Sallie navigates the secrets and scandals of her family, facing obstacles and challenges along the way.

As someone who typically leans towards contemporary fiction, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. Sallie Kincaid is a captivating and inspiring protagonist who refuses to be defined by societal norms.

In this post, we will provide discussion questions for Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls. We’ll analyze Sallie Kincaid’s choices and actions as she navigates her way through a world of conflict and lawlessness.

We’ll also examine the themes of secrets, scandals, and the pursuit of power that drive the story. Whether you’re a seasoned book club member or just starting out, these thought-provoking discussion questions will stimulate conversation and spark new ideas.

If you haven’t already read Hang the Moon, I encourage you to grab a copy and join the conversation. I hope that these discussion questions will help you engage with the book’s themes and characters and stimulate some interesting conversations with your book club! ❤️

The Synopsis

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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Book Club Questions for Hang the Moon

I hope you and your book club will enjoy my discussion reading guide for Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls ✨

  1. Analyze the significance of the two epigraphs that open the book, one from Queen Elizabeth I and another from the author’s father, Rex Walls. How do these quotes set the tone for the novel and relate to the overall story? What do they suggest about the themes and motifs that will be explored?
  2. Trace the influence of Sallie’s father on her character development. In what ways does she emulate him, and what lessons does she learn from him? At what point does Sallie begin to deviate from her father’s teachings and forge her own path?
  3. Marriage is a central theme in the novel, and Sallie is uncertain about whether she wants to get married. Analyze how marriage is represented in the story, and how it differs from modern-day attitudes towards marriage. What do characters’ attitudes towards marriage reveal about their values and beliefs?
  4. Compare and contrast Sallie’s two love interests, Tom Dunbar and Lieutenant Douglas Rawley. How do each of these men influence Sallie’s actions and decisions? Before the end of the novel, were you rooting for one of these men over the other, and why? What do Sallie’s romantic relationships reveal about her character and desires?
  5. Explore the Duke’s statement, “I’ll treat you fair, but I won’t treat you special.” What does this principle mean, and how is it reflected throughout the story? Are there instances where this idea is contradicted? How do characters respond to this type of treatment?
  6. Examine the role of family in the novel. How do family bonds influence the events of the story? Is blood really thicker than water? What relationships stood out to you as particularly significant, and why?
  7. In the novel, the Duke tasks Sallie with “bringing out the Kincaid” in her stepbrother Eddie. Define what it means to be a Kincaid and how this concept is manifested in the characters’ actions and behaviors. Are there other characters in the story who also exhibit typical Kincaid traits? What does this reveal about the family dynamics?
  8. Initially, Aunt Faye is presented as a weak and pitiable character, but as the story unfolds, we learn more about her past and present struggles. How does the revelation of Aunt Faye’s history shape our understanding of her character, and how does it impact our view of her role in the novel?
  9. Abraham Crockett is a fascinating character who shares many traits with Duke Kincaid, but lacks the same wealth and power. How does Crockett’s story contribute to the overall narrative, and what would be lost if he were absent from the novel?
  10. Discuss the contrast between Sallie and her stepbrother Eddie, who is described as intelligent and withdrawn. What does this reveal about the family dynamics and their values? How does this dynamic impact Sallie’s character development?
  11. The female characters in Hang the Moon all grapple with societal expectations and gender roles, to varying degrees of success. How have their lives been shaped by their own choices and desires, versus the expectations of the men around them? What role do power dynamics and social class play in their experiences?
  12. The characters in Hang the Moon are morally complex, with shades of gray that make them difficult to categorize. How would you classify the characters along a moral spectrum, and which ones do you consider to be more morally ambiguous than others? What factors influence your assessment of their actions and decisions?
  13. Georgette Rheims is a wealthy and influential woman who challenges Sallie’s confidence and forces her to confront her insecurities. How would the story have been different if Georgette had never entered Sallie’s life, and what do you think motivates her behavior towards Sallie? Do you agree with her husband’s assessment of her motives?
  14. Sallie places a great deal of importance on heirlooms, particularly those that belonged to her mother and other women in her family. What do you think motivates her attachment to these objects, and how do they shape her understanding of her own identity and family history?
  15. The setting of Hang the Moon is integral to the story, and the descriptions of the small town and the Big House are vivid and detailed. How does the historical context of the novel, including Prohibition and the aftermath of World War I, impact the story and the characters?
  16. Duke Kincaid is a larger-than-life figure who casts a long shadow over Sallie and her family. How does the relationship between Sallie and her father evolve throughout the book, and what does it reveal about Sallie’s character?
  17. The theme of family is central to Hang the Moon, and the Kincaid family in particular is both dysfunctional and deeply interconnected. How do the relationships between the Kincaid family members shape the plot of the book? Do you see any overarching themes or messages about family dynamics and loyalty?
  18. Sallie is a complex character who makes choices that could be seen as both admirable and questionable. How do her actions throughout the book shape your understanding of her as a protagonist? Do you see her as a hero, an anti-hero, or something else?
  19. The novel is set in a small town in the early 20th century. How does the time period and setting contribute to the story and the characters? How would the story be different if it were set in a different time and place?
  20. Family is a central theme in the book, with both biological and chosen family playing important roles. How do these different types of family relationships shape the characters and the story? How do the characters navigate the tensions and conflicts that arise within their families?
  21. The novel explores themes of power, privilege, and inequality. How are these themes depicted in the story, and what commentary do you think the author is making on these issues? How do the characters grapple with their own privilege or lack thereof, and how does this affect their interactions with others?
  22. Overcoming long-standing grudges and breaking generational curses is a central theme in Hang the Moon. How does Sallie navigate these conflicts, and what strategies does she employ to succeed where others have failed? What role do forgiveness and reconciliation play in her journey?
  23. At the end of the novel, Sallie has a moment of doubt about a memory she has of her mother. How does this uncertainty shape our understanding of Sallie’s character and her experiences throughout the novel? Does it change our interpretation of the events that have taken place, and if so, how?

Selected Reviews for Hang the Moon

“I couldn’t open this book up fast enough. Hang the Moon is immersive from the very first page.”  —Zibby Owens, “Good Morning America”

“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

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

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed my book club discussion questions and reading guide for Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls!

Here are some more of my book club recommendations:

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

A story of summer, secrets, love, and lies: in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod, one woman must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades.

“This house, this place, knows all my secrets.”

It is a perfect August morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside.

Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.

As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families

In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari

Inspired by her own Iranian-American heritage, the acclaimed author weaves a beautifully crafted story of mothers and daughters, secrets and lies, and defying expectations—even when those choices come with an irrevocable cost.

Twelve months after her younger sister Anahita’s death, Mitra Jahani reluctantly returns to her parents’ home in suburban New Jersey to observe the Iranian custom of “The One Year.” Ana is always in Mitra’s heart, though they chose very different paths. While Ana, sweet and dutiful, bowed to their domineering father’s demands and married, Mitra rebelled, and was banished.

Caught in the middle is their mother, Shireen, torn between her fierce love for her surviving daughter and her loyalty to her husband. Yet his callousness even amid shattering loss has compelled her to rethink her own decades of submission. And when Mitra is suddenly forced to confront hard truths about her sister’s life, and the secrets each of them hid to protect others, mother and daughter reach a new understanding—and forge an unexpected path forward.

Alive with the tensions, sacrifices, and joys that thrum within the heart of every family, In the Time of Our History is also laced with the richness of ancient and modern Persian culture and politics, in a tale that is both timeless and profoundly relevant.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. 

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Thank you for reading my book club discussion questions and as always, happy reading! ❤️

Heidi Jeffs

Sunday 30th of April 2023

Thank you for the book club questions for Hang the moon! Note: Eddie is Sallie’s half brother, not her step brother.


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

You're welcome, and thank you! :)