One of the most enjoyable stories I’ve read in a long time, Gentlemen of the Road captures an era of swashbuckling Jews circa A.D. 950. Michael Chabon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is known for his exquisite use of floury, descriptive language. In this story he weaves beautiful images of country, character, and adventure.
The story follows Amram, a giant African soldier wielding an ax, and Zelikman, a thin and clever physician with a fondness for fancy headwear. The two are traveling soldiers, thieves, bamboozlers — gentlemen of the road as they say. They become entangled in a grand adventure escorting and rescuing an heir to the overthrown Khazar Empire, then helping lead an army and take on a full-scale revolution.
Chabon has a way of transporting the reader into a different world. He uses language, vocabulary, and historical references that pull you into the story and give you a sense of participation — a place in the overall experience. Chabon pushes the idea that reading is an escape, an entertaining adventure. He also emphasizes the fact that adventure can come upon any of us at any time.
“Adventures befall the unadventuresome as readily, if not as frequently, as the bold. Adventures are a logical and reliable result — and have been since at least the time of Odysseus — of the fatal act of leaving one’s home, or trying to return to it again. All adventure happens in that damned and magical space, wherever it may be found or chanced upon, which least resembles one’s home” (Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road, Afterword).