Bewildering Stories

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Michael Chabon's Summerland

Author: Michael Chabon
Hardcover, September 2002 PB Feb. 2004 510 pages
ISBN: 0786816155
Price: HB--$25.95 PB $8.95

Alright, first thing. I don't care for baseball books. Sure, it's America's pastime, except that it's past time, I think. I read this because I liked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay for the most part, and so I was willing to give Chabon a chance. And I'm glad I did. This fantasy admixture of baseball, Indian Lore, Norse mythology, American mythology, and a kid's chance to save the universe, right some wrongs, and find his dad whilst tooling around in an old orange Saab is not to be missed.

Ethan Feld and his father have moved from the midwest to Clam Island in Washington State (and no, there is NO Clam Island...), where there is a spit of land where in never rains. In Washington, no less. This area of baseball and picnic fields is called "Summerland", and the reason why it never rains there is because it is interconnected through a "gall" in the World-Tree to the Summerlands.

Ethan finds, that even though he hates baseball, and can't hit, and waits in far right field for the ball to go past him, he somehow gets recruited by Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown, once a famous player of the Negro Leagues, and now a scout, looking for someone to somehow vanquish "Coyote", a really nasty version of the Trickster God, who wants to destroy the Tree Of Worlds, and put everything back into gray chaos.

Although the plot is actually rather simple, the writing is clear, clean and entrancing. When Ethan meets up with legend, the sense is that of the best of mythmaking. The delineations of the fading American myths--Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Joe Magarac, John Henry, Calamity Jane and others--are moving and sad, and yet since none of these heroes are actually named, some research might be needed unless one has been steeped in American myth.

Chabon has created a wondertale here, and kids of ALL ages should read Summerland.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wright

A Review of Trickster's Choice