Thoughts by James McBride, Riverhead Books 2020, 370 pages
Challenge: Possible long/short listed for Tournament of Books 2021?
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hard Cover, purchased from Scuppernong’s in GSO NC
Why I read this now: It’s time was now. Inspired by the TOB.
MOTIVATION for READING: New release from a favorite author. Getting good reviews. A possible TOB selection. Lots of reasons
WHAT’s it ABOUT: What is a Deacon? Who is Deacon “King Kong”? Does everyone get a nickname?
The protagonist actually has the nickname “Sportcoat”. He is a deacon at his church in the projects of NYC. He drinks. A lot. He shuffles through his days and is quite committed to his responsibilities and is well-loved by his community. The year is 1969.
But one day, he takes his handgun and shots the main drug dealer in his neighborhood. Shoots the kid’s ear off! However, he has no recollection of doing this, almost immediately after the fact. He loves this kid! This kid has an amazing pitching arm, has the talent to make it in the Bigs and is wasting his life.
This event sets off so many little chains of events, pulling together all the characters impacted, weaving the past with the possible future, and resulting in a sweet story full of humanity, heartache, love and overcoming.
THOUGHTS: I loved it. I loved all the characters. I loved the little love stories and explorations of dreams contrasted with hard reality. The humor is endearing, the sass and grit is inspiring, and the piecing together of the puzzle is fun. Sure, there are some middling issues of how a few things are handled – like the cheese!? But it is significant in its own fun way so just get over it…
Loved the matriarch of the church! Love the pastor’s wife. Of course!
RATING: Five slices of pie. And PIE is in the story a few times, too, which is always a plus in my book. (Noticing the porkpie hat on the cover, yes?)
“The top seller in the Brooklyn mosque number 34 sales division, having sold the most bean pies and newspapers and that mosque’s storied history. He was also wanted in Kansas for false imprisonment related to a domestic squabble and robbery, but that, he is assured the group, was a long story.”*
Miss Four Pie = “She had four hot blueberry pies in her oven first day I come on the job that whole house was stinking of blueberries.”
“He only knew that every Christmas since his guys pulled that lady out of the water, the church coloreds had dropped off two sweet potato pies and a cooked chicken outside his railroad boxcar. Why couldn’t more people get along that way?”
“Pie-eyed and feeling addled and murky…”
*Could this be a hint as to McBride’s next book?!
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