I had read and loved Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It was beautifully written, the plot was imaginative and huge and the characters were memorable and interesting. Other than one weird part of the book that takes place in Antarctica or something that was kind of boring and didn't totally fit, the book was a masterpiece. So when I heard that they were making a movie out of Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, I thought I should check it out before the movie came out.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh started out a bit slow. The writing was great and the characters interesting, but it seemed plotless and aimless, much like the main character's, Art Bechstein, plans for life. But then it picks up speed and doesn't slow down. As Art becomes entangled in a love triangle with a man and a woman, self exploration and sexual identity become the moving force of the novel. Then the mysteries of his father's work and the tragic death of his mother begin to shape events as Art's friend, Cleveland, gets involved in the underground work that Art's father is involved in. In a novel about love, trust and secrets, Chabon creates extremely realistic and yet unique characters who are the heart of the novel. A novel about the decisions we make in life that propel us in one direction or another and the consequences of these decisions.
I cannot praise Chabon's writing enough. He's simply a master. The fact that this was his first published novel amazes me. His prose is flawless, unique and beautiful. As a writer, I'm desperately jealous. I'm a little unsure of whether or not I liked the ending of the book. It works, but I guess I was a little disappointed and wished that certain characters had turned out differently. The strained relationship between Art and his father was one that I wish had been fleshed out more and one that I wanted to end up somewhere different. That is my only regret in a book that was daring and full of life and honesty. I'm a little nervous to watch the movie because they combined two of the main characters and made another set married that wasn't in the book. I'm not sure if I like those moves, but I'll have to see the movie when it comes out to see how they do with it.
Overall, this is the ultimate coming of age story, full of very Pittsburgh-y settings and all the confused feelings of growing up. It's also a tribute to those people in your past who make a huge impact on who you are and that you carry with you even after they're out of your life. For a book that has been compared to such classics as Adventures of Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, it is definitely worth reading and already a classic in its own right.
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