This book started off strong for me. I was immediately drawn to Michael Chabon’s writing style and the basis of the book captivated me. Chabon travels to his mother’s house in the final week of his grandfather’s life. Knowing that he is about to die, his grandfather reveals stories to him that he’s never heard. The story skips around – it’s not told chronologically – so the reader is taken on a journey through his grandpa’s life that includes sex, love, marriage, war, model rockets, and space exploration fascination.
There were many times where I was left in awe of Chabon’s storytelling skills and his ability to write such thought-provoking sentences. However, as the story pushed on, I found myself getting bored of the dense writing and began to wonder what the point of all of it is. There is no cohesion throughout the story and it was probably this book that made me realize that I really do need a story to have a purpose. Apparently, I don’t read writing just for writing’s sake; I enjoy it very much when a story has a redemptive quality to it.
As I mentioned above, the writing is very well done. I have many parts of the book underlined and have found myself thinking about them quite often. Chabon developed two of his characters quite well – Michael (the narrator) and his grandfather. However, I would have loved more development in regards to his grandma – she is eluded to as having been Jewish and a survivor of the Holocaust. She struggles with some possible mental issues due to her circumstances; sadly, none of this is fully developed in the story.
She was a vessel built to hold the pain of her history, but it had cracked her, and radiant darkness leaked out through the crack.
“She’s broken, I’m broken,” he said. “Everybody’s broken.”
Also, the relationship between the narrator’s mother and the grandfather was poorly developed. We learn that the grandfather is not her real father, but we also know that he raises her as his own because of their immigration to the United States. Again, both of these things left big holes for me in the plot and made me feel like Chabon left me wondering – something I HATE in a book. Wanting to know more about these two women is probably what kept me reading until the end instead of giving up on the book. I guess I’m trying to say that I felt duped by Chabon by the time I finished the book. To me, the real parts of the story were not developed.
I’m disappointed in myself. In my life. All my life, everything I tried, I only got halfway there. You try to take advantage of the time you have. That’s what they tell you to do. But when you’re old, you look back and you see all you did, with all that time, is waste it. All you have is a story of things you never started or couldn’t finish. Things you fought with all your heart to build that didn’t last or fought with all your heart to get rid of and they’re all still around.
While this book is a novel, there are apparently some parts of the story that could be considered semi-autobiographical. I’m not sure what those parts are, but that added an interesting aspect to the overall story. Ultimately, I did have some take aways from the book, but I wish it would have been shorter and had more of an overall purpose.
“Do you think they were every happy?”
“Definitely, ” I said.
“She went crazy. His business failed. They couldn’t have children of their own. He went to prison. HRT gave her cancer. I shot his brother in the eye and then married a man who cost him his business. When were they happy?”
“In the cracks?” I said.
“In the cracks.”