By Michael Chabon
Published September 2000
Sam Clay and Joseph Kavalier are cousins. When Joseph smuggles himself out of Prague in 1939, he comes to stay with the Clays. Sam has a dream to write comic books and when he sees the artistic ability of his cousin, he decides it's time to take action. Soon the cousins and a group of artists have spent a weekend developing a whole series of characters and stories and manage to get the ideas published. Soon the group is a huge success, particularly the character The Escapist, inspired by Joseph's own Houdini-esque escape abilities.
Joseph begins a passionate affair with the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will play a part in both Joseph's and Sam's lives. Joseph will deal with his inability to get his family safely out of Czechoslovakia, Sam with his homosexuality and Rosa with an unexpected and untimely pregnancy. But the biggest changes in their lives occur when World War II finally comes to the U. S.
I had previously read Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" and enjoyed it a lot. This one had been highly recommended; many people rate it as Chabon's best work. So my expectations were high. And I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed. Chabon again presented me with a completely unique story line and an impressive cast of characters.
One reviewer said that despite some very serious subject matter, the book never loses it's sense of humor. I'm not sure I agree with that assesment. There's a part of the book, when Joseph is stationed in the Artic, that is quite heavy. It does serve an important purpose in the book but it did really pull me out of the sense of the book.
Michael Chabon is simply brilliant when it comes to use of the English language. The New York Times calls this "a novel of towering achievement" and Newsweek says "Chabon has pulled off another great feat." I couldn't agree more and I'm looking forward to picking up more of his work.