Crossing California by Adam Langer

I rate this book a solid three stars or a weak four stars. I had very high expectations going into this book. One, because my partner grew up in Rogers Park in the 70’s and I have heard numerous stories about it and two, because I lived in Chicago in a neighborhood just south of Rogers Park and have been there many times and know the neighborhood myself.

There is a lot of detail about the area. It really brings the neighborhood to life and in many ways, Rogers Park is the star character of the book rather than the human characters. The first 2/3 of the book were excellent. I was getting into the characters and their lives and I felt like the story was going somewhere interesting. Something happened to the last 1/3 of the book and I cannot put my finger on what  exactly happened.

Some characters introduced early in the book went nowhere or were given very incomplete story lines: like Muley’s dad, the parents of Lana and Larry and even the Charlie/Gail relationship. They just kind of hit dead ends without real explanations or conclusions. Muley, who was so important in the first part of the book merely drifted away into an editing room and emerged briefly at the end. This was very disconcerting since Muley had been extremely integral to the story for most of the book. Larry, the Jewish rocker disappeared completely after dominating much of the story. Another strange choice.  The list goes on which leads me to believe that there was poor editing choices being made or that the writer really had no idea how to wrap up these story lines.

I read the last pages and ended up in a Rogers Park dictionary. I was baffled…what had just happened? Where was the rest of the story? I am truly hoping it is in the follow up The Washington Story. I am not jumping straight in though. I am going to digest this one a little more and see if I can like this book more than the 3 stars I am giving it. I want to love it, but I only fell in like with it.


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