I have always believed if you have to work too hard to understand what the author MAY be saying, it's not that great of a book or poem. This book involved great effort but I was determined to read Chabon once again and delve into his talent and reward myself with his literary excellence. So I began the book and stayed with it most of the time. I had to take intermissions and then after a few days, discipline myself to return to Chabon who requires 100% concentration of each word. I admit to jumping around, re-reading passages and then putting it back together.
I stayed with it because his writing is excellent and his characters are splendidly multi-dimensional. No one is superficial. Those of us that have watched the small mom and pop stores go out of business will empathize with the agonies of Brokeland Records. I remember when there were small soundproof booths to listen to a record or album and decide if this was worth my meager allowance. Chabon gives us two guys; well they really are boys trying to act like adults, Nat Jaffe and Archy Stallings, who are in sure danger of losing their meager livelihood (Brokeland Records) to a megastore. Chabon fills the novel with characters who are fascinating and play major and secondary roles in the overstuffed plot.
Nat and Archy's wives, Aviva and Gwen, have a midwifery business. If vinyl records are to be cherished, why not midwifes as a cottage industry? They, too, are in trouble when presented with a lawsuit when a birth goes wrong. Not to be outdone in this plot, Archy's estranged son travels from his home in Texas and becomes enthralled with Nat's gay/effeminate son, Julie. Such goings on. Throw in Archy's peripatetic father, Luther, who has big plans for his comeback as a champion of something.
Chabon is a wizard at writing about men, who remain boys, but need to evolve to survive and end their self-destruction. Minor characters tie up his plot so you need to stay with it. It's not easy, but Mr. Chabon is worth the effort.