Just one day past the official start of my self-created, nerdy-but-awesome book challenge, I am pleased to report one book down (and only sixty-plus to go!).
The first title in my Buzzfeed encouraged, self-inflicted Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties and During Your Peace Corps Service to Better Yourself and Use Time Wisely Challenge was, drumroll please
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by the one and only Michael Chabon.
Okay, I have to confess on sort of cheating on two accounts here. First, I started reading this a few days before I stumbled across this book-list. The fact that it happened to be among the best was a beautiful and perfect coincidence, though it can hardly be considered a happenstance as it is LITERALLY my favorite book of all time.
Which brings me to the second cheat, noting that I have already devoured and adored and fell in love with this book once before.
Never-the-less, I read this baby cover to cover again and hereby present the following review, the first of (hopefully) many during my service.
What’s it All About?
I have attempted to summarize this wholly romantic, exhilarating, stimulating novel in, seriously, like twenty different drafts, and end up ranting for a solid page and a half, no matter what I try to cut out. My best attempt: as the title suggests, the novel follows two young cousins, Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, who create daring stories and heroes in the “latest novelty to hit America – the comic book.”
Set during World War II, Joe –through a series of hilarious and sobering events (my favorite part of the novel) – smuggles himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague to join his cousin Sammy in the bustling town of New York City. Together with their innocence and sincerity, their wit and skill, the men begin a truly amazing adventure in which they struggle to save their families, find themselves and simply survive in the world that is quickly changing around them.
The novel itself moves in five parts, the first following Joe’s adventures to America, the last taking place several years after the end of the war, shadowing the not-so-young cousins’ lives after everything and anything has happened to them; war, death, wealth, poverty, magic, heroes, golden keys, families lost and found, women, men – you name it, it’s there.
I feel mostly like the shocked grandfather in The Princess Bride when I try to encapsulate all this novel possesses and presents. It’s just too great to miss out on.
Does it deserve to be one of Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties?
Honestly, I think it is a stunning novel for any age, but I can definitely see why it was specifically targeted for my soul-seeking, life-beginning age group.
The story begins when the young men are at just such an age. I remember reading this for the first time – which was maybe only two years ago – and following the story of two men who felt much older than me. I’m not sure whether I was not paying close enough attention or didn’t exactly put myself at the level of the characters, but I didn’t really feel them; I was reading a story about two brave guys facing much more adult-like and interesting situations, appropriate for them at their hazy-age.
This time around, however, I found myself shaking my head in shock and awe and amazement and fear at the moments they encountered. And they are just so young!
Chabon does an incredible job creating and representing events in a way I very much feel a person in their twenties might react. More than that, however, I love the train of events this story follows. How these actions and consequences change and create the men they become; how their choices and decisions made at this age influence in their future. It’s both encouraging and frankly a bit daunting – but totally relatable. Which, I think, shows Chabon’s true master-fullness: I find myself loving and recognizing myself in these characters far, far removed from Liv Nelson, 21st Century young-lady.
Any great passages or phrases outlined and loved?
I remember just loving this line last time and sure enough, I found myself pausing and contemplating and loving it again – probably even more. This man can pull a sentence like no other.
She was an ample girl, plain and intelligent, studying to be a nurse. After relieving Josef of the burden of his innocence the previous night, in a procedure that required less time than it now took her to brew a pot of coffee, Trudi had pulled on her cherry-pink kimono and gone out of the parlor to study a text on phlebotomy, leaving Josef to the warmth of her goose-down counterpane, the lilac smell of her nape and check lingering on the cool pillow, the perfumed darkness of her bedroom, the shame of his contentment.
Overall thoughts and conclusions?
I think I’ve gushed enough. And though I say this a lot, I honestly do think this is my favorite book of all time. READ IT.
And there you have it – the first of many. Let’s hope the challenge continues in a great way!