By Michael Chabon
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061493355, 496pp.)
Publication Date: September 2013
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As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there--longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, a pair of semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart--half tavern, half temple--stands Brokeland.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complications to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.
Michael Chabon's sprawling novel features a multiracial cast of characters, from gay teens to former blaxploitation stars. It's a celebration and gentle sendup of the countercultural norms and racial politics of life in the Bay Area, revolving around efforts by two men to save their record store. More at NPR.org
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- There are many different variations on father-and-son relationships—both real and makeshift—explored in the novel. What might the author be trying to convey through these complicated liaisons?