Michael Chabon’s authorial distance from the narrator of this book, Mike, is at hard to discern. Chabon, reportedly, had a similar experience as his narrator, talking with this grandfather on his death bed in the late 1980s. It seems he used this experience as a jumping point to write this novel. Chabon’s patented ornate, technically proficient writing is on display in this book. I happened to listen to it as an audio-book (something I don’t do often), and the words are even more pleasurable as speech. But sometimes this talent and embellishment gets in the way of what’s most important: the story.

I never felt emotionally connected or moved by this book. There was plenty of emotionality throughout, sadness, humor, shock, and so on. But, perhaps because of the balance between plot and character, or because the central character is a man from a generation that has been written about so much and afflicted by many of the same characteristics (stoic, silent, etc), or because stories about rockets, WWII, and family mysteries are not interesting on their own, I ended up finding myself impressed with the writing, but not lost in the story.

In a recent book club discussion about this book, a 5 person group split 3 (all the men) in favor of this book. And 2 (the women) against it. I found this distribution interesting too. Perhaps in the same way as the literary ancestors of this book (Pynchon and Salinger) are seen, Chabon has created a deeply masculine book, in a time when our culture has moved past such literature.