cover image The Rib King

The Rib King

Ladee Hubbard. Amistad, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-297906-3

Hubbard (The Talented Ribkins) delves into issues of race, vengeance, redemption, and rage in this inventive historical. Beginning in 1914, the narrative follows groundskeeper August Sitwell and the other Black servants working for the Barclays, a once affluent Southern white family whose fortune is rapidly dwindling. As labor strikes and racial violence grow in their unnamed city, Sitwell begins to take an interest in the three orphans who have been hired to work as kitchen apprentices for Miss Mamie Price, the house cook. But his relationship to the boys and to the rest of the staff is put to the test when Mr. Barclay agrees to sell the recipe for Mamie’s meat sauce to one of his associates, who plans to market it locally and and use Sitwell’s likeness as the brand’s image—all without Sitwell’s or Mamie’s approval. Haunted by a brutal episode of violence instigated by Sitwell’s mother’s employer in Florida when he was a boy, Sitwell commits a startling act that alters the lives of everyone who works in the Barclay household. Hubbard’s prose brims with unspoken tensions and a prevailing sense of dread as she skillfully explores how the characters are impacted by trauma. Shocking and thought-provoking, Hubbard’s latest cements her status as an American original. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. (Jan.)