GOING TO CHICAGO by Robert Levandoski


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 Whimsical, bittersweet debut about a quixotic 1934 road trip to the Chicago World's Fair, recalled by a curmudgeonly retiree who learns of love and loss when the adventure turns sour. Hoping to glimpse the wonders of the modern era and lose their virginity in a Chicago brothel, Ace Gilbert and Will Randall, two fatherless 18-year-old buddies, take off from Bennett's Corners, Ohio (``a place where six roads come together like slices in a pie''), in a Model T equipped with faux airplane wings and a propeller mounted on the radiator. In the backseat is Will's younger brother, Clyde, a last-minute addition suffering from an earache. Gilbert, the narrator, is the son of a WW I fighter pilot and imagines himself soaring above the flat, forlorn landscape of the Depression-era Middle West until the trio meets up with the smartly dressed, shotgun-toting highway- robber Gus Gillis and his comely moll, Gladys Bartholomew. Gus is obsessed with the legend of recently murdered Texas highwayman Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) and has set off on his own comically inept journey into crime, hoping to achieve immortality by dying in a hail of bullets while Gladys trusts that her as yet unlaunched career as a radio star will benefit from Gus's nascent notoriety. Gus hijacks a crop duster, and, with Gilbert piloting and Clyde cringing in the back, departs on an aerial crime spree, leaving Will with sexy Gladys. Things get nasty when the gang takes over a radio station and Gus grabs a microphone to bait corrupt Sheriff Orville Barnes to come after him. Barnes and FBI slime Norman Pruitt exploit Gus's misguided lust for fame, turning what began as reckless adolescent irreverence into a violent nightmare that leaves one of the boys dead. Abruptly shifting passages of featherweight cuteness, wistful nostalgia, and foreboding disaster make for a bumpy flight, but Levandoski's search for meaning in meaningless tragedy is heartfelt.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-877946-98-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1997