Laura's Reviews > Summerland

Summerland by Michael Chabon
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's review
Nov 15, 2011

really liked it

It’s a game to go down in history books.

“Summerland.” Michael Chabon. Hyperion Books, New York, 2002.

In “Summerland,” Michael Chabon successfully creates a novel that mixes the fantastical and surreal with the real world that we know, all the while intriguing the reader to delve deeper into the mixture of worlds. Chabon uses various sources of mythology, such as Coyote from Native American mythology, to create the fictional surrealistic realm in which Ethan Feld, the main character, live. In addition to these things, Chabon incorporates something that makes the story all the more realistic—America’s favorite past time, baseball.

While reading, the world and characters lead the reader to believe this is a book for young adults, yet the context is geared more towards adults. Ethan Feld is an eleven year old boy, forced to take on the fate of a race in a parallel world, a concept that only adults will fully understand—the cliché concept of keeping the weight of the world on the shoulders. The age and mannerisms of the characters lead to an expectation of this novel being geared towards the younger generation, yet the previous concept, in addition to the references, including mythological references, leads to the assumption that the novel is developed for a more mature audience. The execution in his ability to mix young adult story with adult concepts has inspired me to work on this in my own writing, so that stories can be geared toward differing age groups.

Chabon uses history, including mythology, to round out characters and plot line so as to make it more believable. Some of the most obvious mythology Michael Chabon incorporates is Native American and Norse mythology. The Native American mythology included in this novel varies from Coyote, used as the antagonist, to the Gleaming—which, I believe, is a spirit realm in Native American mythology. Norse mythology is also predominant in this novel, ranging from the name of the zepplina, Skidbladnir, to Loki, the name Coyote calls himself by—which in itself mixes the two differing mythologies into one. The research needed to correctly accomplish including mythological concepts is one that can be admired by fellow and aspiring writers alike, as it is a good example of the importance of research before writing.

Baseball is the device used to unite the two worlds—ours and the mythological one Chabon creates—together in “Summerland.” The ferishers, the little people of the other world, choose Ethan to play ball for them to save themselves in a game of the ages. To emphasize the roll of baseball in the story, and how this in itself becomes a conflict with the central character, the story begins with Ethan declaring “I hate baseball” (Chabon 3). Chabon provides an example of a technique to tie the entire story together; without including baseball, there would have no link between the worlds and it wouldn’t have made sense. It is this example that inspires me to take a closer look at pieces I have written to see if a uniting device should be added to benefit the story.

Altogether, “Summerland” is a literary masterpiece. Michael Chabon has accomplished in not only writing this for young adults, but incorporates techniques that only more mature audiences would understand and appreciate. Chabon also did thorough research to include mythology from different cultures, using them to create the characters and world that exists in this amazing novel. Baseball is the game that not only brings varying people in our own world together, but brings different beings from different worlds together for this story, it is the thing that is consistent in our world and Chabon’s. Bringing all these concepts together is what creates such an amazing story that Michael Chabon should be praised for creativity and literary excellence.

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