Five-Carat Soul

James McBride. Riverhead, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1669-3
Humming with invention and energy, the stories collected in McBride’s first fiction book since his National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird again affirm his storytelling gifts. In the opening story, “The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set,” vintage toy dealer Leo Banskoff gets a lead on a priceless collectible: the long-lost train set made for Robert E. Lee’s son Graham by one of Smith & Wesson’s founders. In one of several surprises that upend his assumptions about value, Banskoff prepares for fierce negotiation but finds that the train’s impoverished, devoutly evangelical owner wants to give it away. In “The Fish Man Angel,” a weary President Lincoln makes a late-night visit to his dead son Willie’s horse, weeping alone before overhearing words that change history. In “The Christmas Dance,” a Ph.D. candidate begs two of the only surviving members of the African-American Ninety-Second Infantry Division to describe its role in a senselessly bloody World War II encounter; though their reluctance jeopardizes his thesis, ultimately the men—unlike the government they served—honor even unspoken promises. One of two groups of linked stories reimagines the animal world, while the other visits a gritty neighborhood of Uniontown, Penn., during the Vietnam War as teenagers grapple with limitation and longing. McBride adopts a variety of dictions without losing his own distinctively supple, musical voice; as identities shift, “truths” are challenged, and justice is done or, more often, subverted. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/24/2017
Release date: 09/26/2017
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-49796-7
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-525-49885-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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