cover image The World Is Full of Champions

The World Is Full of Champions

J.H. Sullivan. Post Hill, $19 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-63758-858-1

This rousing but unfocused romance from Sullivan (Against the Tide) follows two Black families across 30 years as they navigate racial and social tensions. In 1960s Philadelphia, Georgia Smythe’s mother works as a maid for the affluent Whitman family, and Georgia develops a crush on the youngest Whitman son, Lawrence, that persists as the Smythe family weathers tough financial times after Georgia’s father’s death. Lawrence’s troubled relationship with his own father causes him to harbor negative feelings toward his brother, Robert, whom his family favors. After a violent altercation incited by Lawrence leads to Robert’s death, The Whitmans expect Lawrence to take the helm in Robert’s absence and marry Claire Scott, the daughter of another well-to-do Black family, to maintain their social standing. When their relationship hits the rocks, however, Lawrence turns to Georgia for comfort and the pair begin a fling that leaves Lawrence torn between fulfilling his family’s wishes and following his heart. The author puts a lot of care into depicting the racial tensions of the times, but the plot is muddled by multiple POVs and the romance comes together too late. Readers will struggle to remain invested. (Apr.)