Summerland by Michael Chabon

ChabonSummerlandWhy I Read It: A friend highly recommended it.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from a friend (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you like baseball with some mythology adventure thrown in, then check this book out.

Narrator: Michael Chabon

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2002)

Length: 12 CDs or so

Author’s Page

Ethan Feld doesn’t really like baseball. He finds it boring, isn’t any good at it, and his team usually loses. However, his father is a big fan of baseball in all its forms and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, insists he keep playing. Set on Clam Island, Washington, these youngins soon become embroiled in the an impending war between Coyote (known by many names including Loki) and Clam Island fairies. this story couples Native American mythology with Nordic tales and deities, and then throws in some American baseball. It was a pretty crazy ride.

This story seemlessly, beautifully blends beings from the Nordic and Native American mythos. I had not seen this done so well before and I quite enjoyed this particular aspect of the book. We have these Clam Island fairies that are more Native American than pasty white pixies with red hair. There’s Padfoot, servant of Coyote who lives in a very cold place and is somewhat mad. Sasquatches and la llarona (the wailing woman in white who steals children) also make appearances. And there are plenty of images of the World Tree as our heroes learn to slip, skip, and trip along branches and twigs to get from place to place. And that is just a taste of all the mythology that was wonderfully sewn into this tale.

The characters were often fascinating. Ethan’s mom, a doctor, died and he and his dad have been trying to live a normal happy life since. Ethan’s dad is an inventor trying to garner interest and financial backing for his family-sized zeppelin. Jennifer T. (as she likes to be called) comes from a messy homelife, but her aunties are cool. She too is a lover of baseball. Then there is Thor. He often pretends he is an android to make it easier (for him) to deal with normal humans. As the story unfolds, we learn that Thor has a hidden past and a hidden talent. The various supernatural beings that enter the story often have more than just a name – they have histories and agendas of their own.

And then we have the baseball aspect. I had to laugh a little because near the beginning of the story as Mr. Feld is driving Ethan to yet another baseball game, Ethan complains that baseball is boring. Mr. Feld says that something is only boring when you are not paying enough attention to it. There is a lot of baseball in this book. There’s the little league game that starts the book off, then the multitude of games throughout the book (many against or with supernatural beings), and too much baseball jargon even when a game is not occurring. Before this book, I had no real opinion on baseball. I didn’t watch it, and only ever played it when required to in gradeschool. But now I have a rather strong opinion on baseball; it is, indeed, quite boring. Baseball sucked the life out of this book. I had to struggle to finish it.

So, do I recommend it to you? Well, it is very well written. And has really endearing characters and plenty of mythology. But, do you like baseball? If you dislike baseball, then I would recommend giving this book a pass. If you are indifferent to the sport, sure check it out, it might work for you. If you enjoy baseball and mythology, then this may be the best book you read all year.

Narration:  Michael Chabon is an excellent narrator. And he didn’t take the easy road on some of his characters. He went all out making up plenty of individual voices for the plethora of supernatural beings he wrote into this work. His female voices were decent. I especially loved his efforts on the voices of the giants.

What I Liked:  Lots of mythology; great characters with excellent detail and back stories; great narration.

What I Disliked: Way too much baseball.

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