Poignant, ambitious, and tremendously fun, Crossing California is the fiction discovery of the season-a novel about two generations of family and friendship in Chicago from November 1979 through January 1981. In 1979 California Avenue, in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood, separates the upper-middle-class Jewish families from the mostly middle-class Jewish residents on the east of the divide. This by turns funny and heartbreaking first novel tells the story of three families and their teenage children living on either side of California, following their loves, heartaches, and friendships during a memorable moment of American history. Langer's captivating portraits, his uncanny and extraordinarily vivid re-creation of a not-so-past time and place, and his pitch-perfect dialogue all make Crossing California certain to evoke memories and longing in its readers-as well as laughter and anxiety. Whether viewed as an American Graffiti for the seventies, The (Jewish) Corrections, a Chicagoan Manhattan, or early Philip Roth for a later generation, Crossing California is an unforgettable, and thoroughly enjoyable, contribution to contemporary fiction
We open with Jill.
Youngest of the Wasserman's, consisting only of her father Charlie and drama-queen sister Michelle now that her mother died, is a Jewish girl growing up in 70's Chicago, seperated from her classmates by the impenetrable California Avenue. She's smart, you immediatly pick up on, though you also get the distinct impression that she's not the protagonists nor the focus of her own narration. There are too many names, too many kids who could easily take her place; her voice was just the most convienent to start with.
Really, its about not only Jill, but her family, along with two others that we only see in the eyes of the adolescents that belong to them. In addition to the Wassermans, there are the Rovners, with the therapist mother and the sexually confused father, their son Larry, determined to create the Great Jewish-American Rock Band. Then the Wills, consisting of Muley and his single mother.
All these characters have little in common except Chicago, Jewish school, and small relations to each other that they will probably never realize the signifigance of.
To be honest with you, there is and probably never will be a discernable plot. Its more like a collection of anticdotes centered around a group of unsatisfied teenagers growing in a strange place, in an even stranger time. There's not much to say except that its awesome, so awesome I'm not really in the mood to muck it up with my blatherings. So here's to short reviews, eh?