Book Review: “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

 I don’t know why I haven’t been reading everything by Chabon, but he’s definitely on my reading list now. This 2012 novel has won acclaim, with good reason and I’ll join the applause.

Telegraph Avenue is a story centering on two closely intertwined families in Oakland, who grew up together, and now struggle to run two local businesses. I don’t really know Oakland or Berkeley, but I certainly identify with the “trying to make it in my home town” psychology.

I fell in love with most of the characters, even the “bad guys”. Their lives are messy, but they are deep down good and loving people, and I want them to make it.

The story is imbued with their eccentric obsessions from the past, troubles in the present, and partly formed hopes for the future. I can’t say I was ever as fond of the cars and movies and fashions as some of these characters, but I was there for the 70’s, so I grok the references (though I wish it wasn’t the grandfathers that were recollecting these things). I know little about old jazz albums and I certainly know nothing about midwifery. So what? I like these people.

The writing is excellent, complex yet worth the trouble. The dialog and monologs are distinctive and interesting, and the city is lovingly evoked. I wish I could write like this.

Oh, and I must not forget: the flight of the parrot in Part III!

Highly recommended.


  1. Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue, New York, Harper Collins, 2012.


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