As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there, longtime friends, band mates and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the sketchy yet freewheeling borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland, on the quintessential East Bay avenue that gives the book its title. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, a pair of semi-legendary nurse midwives who have welcomed, between them, more than a thousand new-minted little citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart, half tavern, half temple, stands Brokeland Records. Archy and Gwen are expecting their first baby; Nat and Aviva have a teenaged son, Julius. Cranky, flawed, and loving each other with all the fierceness weve come to expect of Chabon characters, they have worked to construct lives and livelihoods that have a groove, looking to connect across barriers of race and class, and clinging to a sense of order and security through their stubbornly old-school ways. When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth richest black man in America, announces plans to go forward with the construction of his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby neglected stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. What they dont know is that Goodes announcement marks the climax of a decades-old secret history, encompassing a forgotten crime of the Black Panther era, the tragedy of Archys own deadbeat father-a long-faded Blaxploitation star named Luther Stallings-and the perpetual shining failure of American optimism about race. As their husbands struggle to mount a defense, at Berkeley Birth Partners Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to their already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenaged son Archy has never acknowledged, and the love of Julius Jaffes life. An intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all its own, Telegraph Avenue is the great American novel weve been waiting for. Generous, imaginative, funny, moving, thrilling, humane, triumphant, it is Michael Chabons most dazzling book yet.