Michael Chabon’s new novel is a beautiful memorial to his grandparent’s lives and a fantastic exploration of family and memory. Although it is fiction, the narrator certainly seems to be Chabon himself, shaping and replaying his family’s story with characteristic talent. The focus is on his grandparents, whose history has been a thing of mystery among his family.
The narrator is staying at his mother’s house, where her father has come to die. He listens to his grandfather’s stories unfold, recollections fueled by his imminent death and pain medication. He learns about his grandparent’s experiences in WWII, their marriage, his grandmother’s descent into madness and his grandfather’s fascination with rocketry. The tales don’t follow chronologically but seem to be relayed as the narrator hears and embellishes upon them.
“After I’m gone, write it down,” his grandfather says. And Chabon does, providing a gorgeous portrait of an amazing couple. — Review by Fay Jones
Samuel Andresen-Anderson is a young but weary English professor who has grown disillusioned by his disengaged students and spineless college administrators. To cope he spends uninterrupted hours playing an online video game. Everything changes when the mother who abandoned him years before is arrested for throwing rocks at a rising right-wing demagogue who is running for president.
Multiple narrators tell intersecting stories in this sprawling, engrossing and unexpectedly timely first novel. Connections emerge between his mother’s current situation and her arrest during the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention. Throughout it all is the Nix, a spirit from Norwegian folklore that his grandfather says will take them away from those they love most and haunt a family for generations.
Nathan Hill, an Iowa native, will be a featured author in the Des Moines Public Library’s 2017 AViD series appearing at the Central Library Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m. — Review by Sally Wisdom