Chabon's award-winning novel is a detective story set in an alternate history. In the events following World War II, a temporary Yiddish-speaking settlement for Jewish refugees is established in Alaska in 1941. The story also incorporates the (fictional) destruction of the State of Israel in 1948 after an unsuccessful struggle for independence. Chabon's story focuses on "...a contemporary scenario where Jewish settlers are about to be displaced by U.S. government's plans to turn the frozen locale of Sitka, Alaska, over to Alaskan natives. Against this backdrop is a noir-style murder mystery in which a rogue cop investigates the killing of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who might be the messiah."
The Coens will be working with super-producer Scott Rudin on the film. Rudin has already developed three other books from Chabon; the first was Wonder Boys back in 2000, and Rudin is also developing an adaptation of Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which Chabon scripted for Paramount. The Coens will get to work on Union just as soon as they have finished shooting the dark comedy A Serious Man. So there is still plenty of time if you are one of those people who'd like to read the book first.