Rating: 3 stars
Though the book isn't due out until September 2012, I was granted access to it via a Read Along hosted by Emily at the blog As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!). You'll find my general impressions below, but if you're interested in checking out my posts for the read along (and others) you'll find all the necessary linkage here.
Telegraph Avenue takes place in 2004, on the famous Telegraph Avenue that separates Oakland from Berkeley - two socioeconomically clashing worlds. It follows two families of different color, the Stallings and the Jaffes, as they navigate race gaps, generation gaps, economic gaps and the American Dream to the tune of 1970's jazz. Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are partners at Brokeland, a rapidly failing record store that is about to be put out of business by the big box, Dogpile Thang. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, are also partners in their midwife business. They also face potential dissolution at the hands of the local hospital. And their sons, Titus Joyner and Julius Jaffe form a partnership of their own, as they navigate how painful it is to be a teenager while also getting mixed up in old Oakland troubles courtesy of Archy's deadbeat dad, Luther.
That's, honestly, the best I can do as far as a recap goes. There's just so much going on in this book. And, while you find yourself immersed in this world that could have been, with characters that are very well drawn, amidst a million different heavy themes - it's a dense book that requires a lot of work. Chabon's style is lyrical and often mirrors a jazzy-funky-beat, which, at times, lends itself to the narrative. At other times, it slows the reader down. Trips the reader up.
In the end, with a finale that's got a unsatisfactorily neatly tied bow wrapped around it, I'm not sure I can tell you whether or not it was worth all the work. I think so?