Going to Chicago

Rob Levandoski, Author
Rob Levandoski, Author Permanent Press (NY) $24 (207p) ISBN 978-1-877946-98-1
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The first three quarters of Levandoski's nostalgic coming-of-age debut are a charming, funny take on many of the same themes that made A Prairie Home Companion popular, but the disjointed tragic ending that ruins the journey of three high-school youths to the 1934 Chicago World's Fair is a disappointment. First-person narrator Ace Gilbert and his buddies Will and Clyde Randall are a trio of Ohio farm boys whose families are struggling through the Depression. The dream of their young lives comes true when they're given permission to take a trip to the big city for an up-close glimpse of the ""technology of the future,"" not to mention some fast Chicago women. Then reality--of a sort--intrudes on adolescent fantasy when Gus Gillis and Gladys Bartholomew, a wannabe Bonnie-and-Clyde couple, kidnap the boys and hijack their vehicle for an ill-advised robbing spree fraught with romantic overtones. By the time Gus and Gladys force a confrontation with the law, Levandoski has let his novel migrate into Quentin Tarantino country. In the meantime, however, he draws several memorable characters, and his attention to voice and expository minutiae pays off throughout, especially in the authentic period details and graceful country humor of the early chapters. It is unfortunate that he never quite manages to reconcile the conflict between humor and darkness that haunts this otherwise engaging tale. (Dec.)
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