cover image Six Out Seven

Six Out Seven

Jess Mowry. Farrar Straus Giroux, $22 (501pp) ISBN 978-0-374-22083-9

Mowry's powerful third novel returns to the Oakland street scene of Way Past Cool to tell another coming-of-age story set among the black gangs of urban America. This time, however, his tale concerns a boy from the rural South seeking an escape from his oppressive small-town life. Bright, handsome Corbitt Wainwright sees little opportunity in Bridge-end, Miss. When his father is sent to jail for attacking a white man and he himself becomes involved in a deadly dispute over a catfish, Corbitt flees the town in hopes of finding a better life in California. Instead, he becomes caught up in the world of guns, gangs and crack. Save for Lactameon, a gifted, sensitive gang mascot whose obesity sets him apart from the regular homeboys, California might have been another dead end for Corbitt. When they eventually come together, Lactameon finds Corbitt carpentry work setting up a crack house and the two conspire to rescue a starving one-eyed urchin named Ethan from early death on the streets. Mowry has an unerring ear for gritty street talk, a graphic sense of place and an unflinching view of American urban life. Influenced by rap music, gangster movies, street slang and the ghosts and magic of a distant African past, he synthesizes a dazzling new sort of literary adventure fiction. (Oct.)