Sammy Klayman, son of a circus strongman, suffers from ironically weak legs, the result of a bout with polio at an early age. It's a deficiency that is more than compensated for by Sammy's rich imagination and enterprising spirit. The arrival of his Czech cousin serendipitously coincides with ambitions that currently tend towards illustration, particularly in the field of comics.
Josef Kavalier has never seen a comic book. He was, however, trained in illustration at The Acadmy of Fine Arts in Prague, a city from which he has recently escaped to arrive in Sammy's Brooklyn bedroom destitute and yet fully committed to rescuing his family from the dark shadow that Nazi Germany has already cast over his homeland.
"To all those who toil in the bonds of slavery and the shackles of oppression, he offers the hope of liberation and the promise of freedom... Armed with superb physical and mental training, a crack team of assistants, and ancient wisdom, he roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains!"
During a pivotal time in the history of comic books, the team of Kavalier and Clay (Sam's nom de plume), became legendary alongside Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the writer-artist team that created Superman the year before the Escapist's birth in 1939. In fact, Chabon populates his novel not only with these and other comic book icons, but with other cultural luminaries such as Orson Welles, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Salvador Dali, whose life Joe saves at a cocktail party.
It is with his attention to every detail that Chabon achieves this effect upon his readers, wringing something from the world that was never really there at all, a feat of illusion directly counter to that which he attributes to nature itself: "The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place."
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is an intricately researched and sweeping historical novel. With comics in the foreground and war on the world stage, the author explores the themes of escapism and of the meaning and purpose of art, while simultaneously plumbing the depths of love, magic, and redemption in the lives of his richly drawn characters.