Pieced together by memories relayed to the author by his dying grandfather, Chabon’s structure mirrors the random and somewhat whimsical nature of memory. As you read the book you feel as though you are slowly constructing someone’s life experience, in bits and pieces. Not linear. Not chronological. But truth, in fits and starts.
Chabon’s grandfather was a talented engineer whose own obsession with space flight eventually led to both a successful career and lifelong rivalry with none other than Werner Von Braun. Braun’s shadow hangs over Chabon’s grandfather, beginning with an encounter at the end of World War II.
There’s no way I can describe what makes the book so special to read. It’s partly the stories, partly the structure, and partly the slow discovery that family members, despite deep ties, can really know very little about one another. If you find you’re having trouble sticking with it, keep going. It gets better as it goes on.