I'm 1/2 way through this book, but felt compelled to write a review at this point. I have to admit that I bought the book for 2 reasons: 1) because I love Chabon's writing and had a dire need for some literary nourishment, and 2) I lived, in the early 70s, at the intersection of Berkeley and Oakland on Telegraph Ave. I lived in the Berkeley flatlands from the late 60s to the late 80s.
When I read Chabon, and this book is no exception, his descriptions seem to be almost mine, as I find myself thinking, "ah, yes, that's a perfect description, a perfect way to put it." Sometimes this gets in the way of the story because I'm often stopping to re-read and ponder the passage, but his writing is so good that it's something I need, a nourishing food for my psyche.
The one flaw that I found with this book is that it seems to need a character map of sorts. I ended up, after losing track of who was who, writing down the character's names and their relationships to help me. After that I was able to concentrate on the story.
It does help to know the Oakland/Berkeley area, as it makes it easier to put things in perspective when he calls out a street name or a part of town. The book brings back many memories, like his description of baked goods from Neldam's Bakery -- not the best bakery in the area, but it seemed like the place to always go for birthday cakes and munchies. But more than the memories, I'm really enjoying Chabon's writing, his characters and the story, as it has unfolded so far.