Book Review: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Posted September 28, 2012 by Sara | Novel Novice 0 Comments

Today’s guest book review is written by my dad! Like most everyone in my family, he’s also a big reader — though he doesn’t delve much into YA (despite my best efforts). However, he’s a huge fan of Michael Chabon — so when I had a chance to let him review Chabon’s newest book, well, dear ol’ dad couldn’t resist. For our usual readers, we think Chabon is a top-notch writer … but remember, he writes for adults. So adult topics lie ahead within this book’s pages!

Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon’s new novel, tells the story of two families’ struggles to survive not only with each other, but within the community that is focused on and around the stretch of this famous street in Oakland & Berkeley. Typical of Chabon, the story takes a while to develop, but that is because he provides such vivid details of both the people and the community. The characters are flawed, which serves to make them seem real.

Nat Jaffe & Archy Stallings co-own Brokeland Records, a struggling used record store on Telegraph Avenue. Their situation becomes desperate when Gibson Goode, a wealthy former NFL quarterback, announces his intentions to open a Dogpile mega-store just a few blocks away. The popular corporate entity will include a large used record section, so this likely will be the end for Brokeland.

And while Nat & Archy struggle to fend off their corporate rival, wives Aviva Roth-Jaffe and Gwen Shanks find themselves embroiled in a battle for the survival of their longstanding midwives practice with a local hospital, and as a result, their deep and abiding friendship.

Add to the mix that Gwen is pregnant with her and Archy’s baby; Titus Joyner, Archy’s teenage son whom Archy has never acknowledged (and is heretofore unknown to Gwen), arrives in Oakland; Julius Jaffe, Nat & Aviva’s teenage son has a crush on Titus; Archy’s estranged father, former Blaxploitation movie star Luther Stallings has returned to Oakland in an effort to blackmail Goode and local city councilman Chan Flowers over a 30-year crime to finance the resurrection of his film career.

Ultimately, the various members of both families must overcome their individual struggles to come together in support of each other, and that is the ultimate theme of this story. While it was difficult to follow at times, Telegraph Avenue is well worth the investment of time and focus. It is in stores now.

Sara | Novel Novice
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