Saturday, October 16, 2021

Book Review - Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

 

Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

Doubleday & Penguin Random House Audio - 9/2021

After being so impressed and moved by Colson Whitehead's last book, The Nickel Boys,  I decided anything the author wrote next would be an automatic read for me.

In Harlem Shuffle the reader is transported to 1959 Harlem, NY where we meet Ray Carney, a black man and the owner of Carney's Furniture on 125th Street.  Ray went to business school and tries to be an upstanding business man unlike his father Mike, a shady character and not at all a role model for his son.  Ray is also a decent family man who definitely married above his class as his wife Elizabeth comes from a prominent family.  Elizabeth is expecting their second child which means their small apartment will soon be a little more cramped.  For a little extra cash flow Ray begins to take in a few items from his cousin Freddie to sell, of course the items are likely stolen.  What starts out as only slightly dirty hands soon turns into something bigger and involves a bad element from bad cops, gangsters , crooked politicians and bankers and other bad-seed elements of society.  Ray's job now is to find the balance and survive and that won't be easy.

This novel is divided into tile periods: 1959, 1961 and 1964 and the real life Harlem Riots.  This story is vastly different fro The Nickel Boys, but it has well developed, memorable characters that help drive the story as well as a sense of place that seems to come alive as well.  I thought this novel was different and enjoyable. I liked the way the author captured Harlem, its people, the discrimination and the police violence.  The genre is hard to characterize but, to me it was darker crime story but, it did have more than a few funny scenes.  

This book was a combo read (eBook) and audio download. The audio was narrated by Dion Graham, the same person that narrated John Grisham's book: Sooley. He did an excellent job once again.  These books were made available to me at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 4/5 stars

18 comments:

  1. I do like the sounds of that one!

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  2. It's that Harlem setting that makes me want to read this one.

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    1. Me too, I was very curious and was glad I tried it as well.

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  3. I'm glad you liked this one. I admired the Nickel Boys too. So I have this on my list.

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    1. Very different fron Nickel Boys but, I thought it was well-written for sure.

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  4. I almost got this book recently, then didn't and I am not sure what motivated me to put it back on the shelf.

    I just started Sooley and am enjoying it so far.

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    1. I'm glad you are enjoying Sooley, we thought it was very good.

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  5. I don't know this author! You have me curious now. I don't know much about the history either, but it seems worth finding out.

    Hope you are well Diane!

    Elza Reads

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    1. He has another book I've been meaning to try called: The Underground Railroad.

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  6. This sounds SO different from Nickel Boys, which is the only Colson Whitehead novel I've read. Hope to give this a try soon.

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    1. It is different but good writing. I still want to try,The Underground Railroad.

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  7. I'm not making much progress on the hold list at my library on this one so I still haven't read it. I'm a Whitehead fan, though, and I'm looking forward to getting my turn at it. I've only read Whitehead's The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys of his, and this one sounds really different than those. Another reason I'm getting more anxious to read it.

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    1. Hope you get this one soon; for some reason holds on popular books are taking much longer here as well as many system libraries did away with overdue fines during COVID. I want to read The Underground Railroad - on my wishlist.

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  8. Great review Diane! This book has been everywhere and getting a lot of attention. It's on my TBR for sure. I haven't read anything by this author and I think i'm missing out!

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  9. The Nickel Boys was excellent. This was very different from Nickel Boys but well written as I thought it would be.

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