Release date: 2012 / 480 pages
Synopsis(from Amazon): As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland. When ex–NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples’ already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe’s life…
Review: One problem with falling utterly in love with a novel like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the fear that subsequent novels will never reach the bar set by this first love. This actually kept me from reading The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (which I have now moved to nearer to the top of my TBR list). But when TLC contacted me about reading Chabon’s latest, I courageously accepted — and then read it in four days.
Did it live up to Kavalier and Clay? Impossible… But did I enjoy it? Thoroughly. As a voracious reader who consumes books like cashews — 2-4 a week — I love when an author stops me cold with his or her prose and demands that I recognize the “craft” of writing again and savor true mastery of the written language. Part III is one sentence that lasts eleven pages — seriously! — and is a panoply of juxtaposed images that still manage to move the narrative momentum forward.
Chabon also has the gift of creating characters who are so incredibly original and singular, that to describe them would make them seem improbable and nearly cariactures. However, a few pages into the novel, the characters felt as familiar as family members — Chabon allows his reader to get to know his characters so intimately that “three-dimensonal” is woefully inadequate. The focus of this novel is primarily two couples — of different races — joined by professional partnerships (vinyl record store and midwifery) and friendship — but even the most “satellite” characters are as richly conceived as the protagonists. And the setting of Oakland, California is truly as palpable as any of the individuals living and working there.
Underlying everything is a resonant bass note of how identity, place, race, gender, friendship, sexuality, paternity, redemption, forgiveness, and love are so much more complex that we even realize. So, while I did not enjoy Chabon’s latest novel as much as his first, it did not disappoint and will thrill most readers.
Interested in winning a free copy? Drop me a comment below and I will choose a lucky winner soon!
Other stops on the tour:
Monday, September 24th: Dreaming in Books
Tuesday, September 25th: The Written World
Wednesday, September 26th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Thursday, September 27th: An Unconventional Librarian