The Good Lord Bird

Thoughts tglbbyjm The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, (2013,417 pages)


Do you appreciate National Book Award Winners?

Did you ever read The Color of Water (and liked it)?

Do you appreciate wry humor and satire?

I recommend this book. Everyone in our club enjoyed it (though our discussion* was a bit boring comparatively.)

This is a fascinating rollicking-good time read that will make you laugh and learn a lot about an interesting event and personality in U.S. History: The Raid on Harpers Ferry by John Brown. You also get cameos of Harriet Tubman (vote for her to be on the $20 bill?) and Frederick Douglass.

I know of John Brown because of this raid but also because he was known for fighting for Kansas’ right to NOT have slaves in the border wars with Missouri before the Civil War. My club asked me if I studied John Brown in my Kansas schooling years but I can’t remember. How/why do I know of John Brown? Not sure.

I do think of a mural in the Kansas State House so maybe I saw it first on a tour? I really don’t remember if I did a school field trip to Topeka while in grade school, but I know I have seen this:


The narrator of the story is a very young black slave, possibly age ~10, that is “freed” by Brown in one of the Kansas raids and he stays with Brown because he really has no place else to go. The odd thing is, the Brown is confused at the beginning, thinking that our boy named Henry is actually a girl named Henrietta. So Henry keeps up the ruse for a variety of reasons. In fact, one of the themes explored in this, in addition to race and slavery, is identity. McBride is a brilliant author on many levels, in my opinion, and I will now read everything he writes. Or, I want to; he’s now on the list.     image

Do know, I am one of those that laughs when most inappropriate, I see the absurd in the sad situations to thus avoid the crying. So it’s not that I love laughing at serious subjects, but. I do, I guess. I think that is why I like satire. (when I get it!)

If you want something a little different, something historical (researching this, it seems the author was quite attune to many of the true facts while having a creative imagination for the rest of it.) READ this book!

Rating: Five slices of Buttered Apple Pie.


Other reviews:  Naomi’s at Consumed by Ink and Rory’s at Fourth Street Review.

* Factoid that I didn’t know until book club:  a few of the ladies (of a generation (or two) prior to mine) started to sing a song “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave” to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Apparently Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to the Battle Hymn after hearing the John Brown version. Our book club leader passed out paperwork of her research and had us sing a few verses! Too funny.

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20 thoughts on “The Good Lord Bird

    1. I do think you might enjoy this. I know you like satire, but I never quite feel comfortable using that label because I have such a hard time explaining it.

  1. I loved Good Lord Bird. A long time ago I read his Miracle at St. Anna book, and loved it, too. Maybe you could try that one next. It’s very different from GLB.

  2. 1. I want to read this book now. 2. You just made me feel ancient…I’m not that much older than you, am I? *sigh* But I totally can sing that song (well, a bit of it), and in fact just sang it to Maxidoodle earlier this week as I was helping him study for a social studies quiz. And I know of John Brown’s time in Bleeding Kansas too, but to be honest I’m not sure if I learned about it when I was in school or because of homeschooling the munchkins.

    1. Well, I am probably wrong to assume that the reason the ladies knew this song was because of their age. In fact, it is very wrong to make that assumption. Just because I am on the youngest gal there and I was the only one who didn’t know the song – and you would think that I would know a song like that! right? So. I wouldn’t think much of it.
      We did discuss that this might be a good book to teach in school. I don’t think I would be up for it because I really do not like to be on the hot seat to explain things as truths. Just another reason I don’t think I would be a good English/Literature teacher.

  3. I had this out from the library at one point, but then returned it because I heard the cameo from Frederick Douglass was unflattering, and I adore Frederick Douglass so I got mad on his behalf. But I guess he gets enough accolades and he can take it.

    1. That’s not like you. You can figure it out. He comes across human but yea, perhaps not as flattering – just skip over that part…. You’ll know it when you get to it. ???? Think of it as why did McBride put it in there??? that you should keep your intrigue up. yes?

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