Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TELEGRAPH AVENUE by Michael Chabon

Nat and Archy are co-owners of Brokeland Records, which sells vintage vinyl, in Oakland, CA.  Their wives, Aviva and Gwen, are also business partners—in a midwives practice.  Both families, then, have their livelihoods tied to rather retro ventures, and both of those ventures are in danger of disintegrating.  A former NFL player-turned-mogul plans to build a mega music store near Brokeland that will surely put Nat and Archy out of business.  Nat pulls together a ragtag protest group, while Archy considers a job offer at the new store.  Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen nearly botch a birth with complications, and Gwen’s rant of indignation may cause the hospital to suspend their privileges.  Gwen herself has a baby due in just a few weeks and discovers that Archy has been unfaithful.  A teenager named Titus also puts in an appearance, looking to reunite with Archy, his biological father, even though the two have never met before.  To complete the generational mayhem, Archy’s drug-addicted father, a former blaxploitation actor, is back in town, trying to raise money for a comeback via blackmail while he lives with his sexy  former costar in a garage.  The plot is just as madcap as it sounds, with a healthy influx of vintage music and movie references and a colorful cast of vividly-drawn characters, including Nat’s son who happens to be in love with Titus and can’t let go of his 8-track player, a funeral director, a lesbian band, an undertaker, and a few goons.  Ultimately, though, this book is about people having to let go of the past and forge a path into the future, even though they may encounter a few thorns along the way.

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