Author: Charlie Smith
Type of book: overly detailed like Anne Rice books, 1913-1940s?, race, racism, trial, murder, broken family, community, trains, south
Year it was published: 2016
A sweeping, eerily resonant epic of race and violence in the Jim Crow South: a lyrical and emotionally devastating masterpiece from Charlie Smith, whom the New York Public Library has said “may be America’s most bewitching stylist alive”
Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their home in the Red Row section of Chattanooga, accused of killing a white man. Taken in by Cornelius Oliver, proprietor of the town’s leading Negro funeral home, he discovers the art of caring for the aggrieved, the promise of transcendence in the written word, and a rare peace in a hostile world. Yet tragedy visits them near-daily, and after a series of devastating events—a lynching, a church burning—Delvin fears being accused of murdering a local white boy and leaves town.
Haunted by his mother’s disappearance, Delvin rides the rails, meets fellow travelers, falls in love, and sees an America sliding into the Great Depression. But before his hopes for life and love can be realized, he and a group of other young men are falsely charged with the rape of two white women, and shackled to a system of enslavement masquerading as justice. As he is pushed deeper into the darkness of imprisonment, his resolve to escape burns only more brightly, until in a last spasm of flight, in a white heat of terror, he is called to choose his fate.
In language both intimate and lyrical, novelist and poet Charlie Smith conjures a fresh and complex portrait of the South of the 1920s and ’30s in all its brutal humanity—and the astonishing endurance of one battered young man, his consciousness “an accumulation of breached and disordered living . . . hopes packed hard into sprung joints,” who lives past and through it all.
There are characters, but I don't understand them nor are they standing out in my mind. There is Delvin who travels from one place to another on a train and also has an odd assortment of jobs, there is also the funeral director who looks after him and acts as a mentor, there is also a girl that Delvin likes but she doesn't seem to be as fond of him as he is of her, and there are some boyhood friends and some Caucasian characters that make things difficult for the town where Delvin lives. That is all I remember of the characters.
I have no clue what the theme should have been
The story is in third person narrative, from what I can say its from Delvin's point of view, although few other characters also let their voices be heard. The only thing I recall of the book is that its coming-of-age of Delvin from 1913 to 1940s if I'm not mistaken, and while some events are memorable, for me they aren't well connected and there is a detachment from everything in the book. And there is way too much detail in the story that spans for eons without stopping. I don't mind details, but I do mind it when those details detract from the plot and I'm left feeling confused and frustrated that I cannot understand what is going on.
(From TLC Book Tours)
About Charlie Smith
Charlie Smith, the author of seven novels and seven books of poetry, has won the Aga Khan Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review,Harper’s, the New Republic, the New York Times, theNation, and many other magazines and journals. Three of his novels have been named New York TimesNotable Books. He lives in New York City and Key West.
For me in the past there were cases when I was very reluctant in handing out negative ratings towards a book, and this is one of those times. As I started to read the story, I recall going back and trying to re-read some sentences to understand the story instead of savoring the imagery, and even after re-readings, I still couldn't understand what was going on. If one takes a look at my book reviews, one can see that I'm big on reviewing lengthy novels (Gone with the Wind, The Poisonwood Bible and The Tale of Genji.) I also am big on reading and reviewing multicultural/diverse novels as well, both from America and translations from different parts of the world. Yet this book failed to capture me in every which way. If I was asked what the story was about, I would have to be honest and say that its about an African-American's man journey through US, but that's about it. My issue with the book is that the details detracted too much from the story, and for me they overshadowed the story completely. I would continue reading, but I had no idea what just happened to the characters. I also wonder if I might have read a different book than some of the other reviewers because almost all of them recommend reading it, while I cannot do the same, and my memories of the book include long and unnecessary details that span endless paragraphs and pages which will be exhaustive for a casual reader.
This is for TLC Book Tours
Charlie’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, February 2nd: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, February 3rd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, February 4th: Puddletown Reviews
Monday, February 8th: The many thoughts of a reader
Tuesday, February 9th: I’m Shelf-ish
Wednesday, February 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, February 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, February 16th: Lectus
Thursday, February 18th: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, February 23rd: Giraffe Days
Wednesday, February 24th: As I turn the pages
Thursday, February 25th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Friday, February 26th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, February 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, March 3rd: My Life in Books
TBD: Book by Book1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)