When Doctorow has Harry Houdini crash his car into a telephone pole outside the house of Mother and Father, he is setting the stage for how all the lives of his characters, real and imagined, will collide throughout his story. Doctorow writes beautifully and the prose and stories flow effortlessly. My only complaint would be that the book might be a bit longer. Once someone is out of the story, out of the point of view of a central character, they’re out. I wanted to read more about Evelyn, even after she left Younger Brother’s life. But Ragtime is a great read, and a great glimpse into maybe not the facts, but the feelings of America at the start of the 20th century.