Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Author: Michael Chabon
Genre: LGBT Fiction, Early 20th Century, Historical Fiction, World War II
Rating: 5.5/5 – It was that brilliant!
Summary: Joe, a Jew, escapes a Gaerman occupied Czechoslovakia, unwillingly leaving the rest of his family behind. He moves in with his cousin, Sam, and Sam’s mother in New York where the boys start working in making/drawing/writing comic books. Anything more would be too spoiler-y…
Review: I don’t even know where to begin… this was one brilliant novel. There is action and comic books and war and complex relationships and defeat and hope and love and loss and so much more. And even though I hated the ending, I loved it too (it was the only ending that could satisfy such an epic story).
This novel is deeply theoretical, contemplating the one thing that I bet everyone had wanted to do at least at some point in their lives… escape. It is woven throughout, sometimes obvious and other times subtle. It always haunts our protagonists because anytime you run from something, you’re also running toward something else. You never really get to escape anything, especially yourself. Or do you? Is escape only an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel better? The novel explores these possibilities, and then leaves the readers to make up their own minds.
It is also about love (and not just romantic love, although there is some of that, but about every kind of love there is). It is about being torn away from home and making a new one. It is about vengeance and forgiveness. It is about survival. It’s deeply thoughtful, leaving the readers to ponder their own lives as Joe, Sam, and Rosa make their way through theirs.
Without giving out too much about the plot, Sam and Joe are Jewish cousins who work making/drawing/writing comic books (you don’t have to know anything about comic books to enjoy this novel) during the dawn of the comic book industry (1930s+), each for his own personal reasons. This is a start of a journey that takes them into unpredictable places, physically, emotionally, and philosophically. Sam and Joe become best friends, Joe falls in love with Rosa, and (mild spoiler that I’ll disclose since this book is in the LGBT genre) Sam is gay. The relationships that arise between the three are complex and fascinating, and never static.
My only criticism is that Chabon sometimes provides too much detail and goes off on tangents that don’t seem important. It made the novel long and a bit tedious to read. However, the payoff for sticking with it was so satisfying that it was worth the struggle, and Chabon is a master of prose, weaving in the descriptions, plot, and philosophy with exceptional ability.