By Tina Jordan
Updated May 06, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Glen David Gold’s Doctorow-esque Sunnyside brings young America to vivid life as he weaves together European battlefields and the backlots of Hollywood. It all begins on a November morning in 1916, when over 800 people around the country — from the California coast to Manhattan — spot Charlie Chaplin. The sightings, bizarre as they seem, yoke Chaplin to the book’s other main characters: Hugo Black, a soldier serving with Allied forces in the fight against the Bolsheviks; and Leland Wheeler, son of a Hollywood star, sent to the trenches of France in the Great War. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, even Rin Tin Tin flit in and out. Gold is a masterful, even heart-stopping storyteller, but not — alas — an equally amazing writer. B