cover image The Gettin Place

The Gettin Place

Susan Straight. Hyperion Books, $22.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-6086-9

Straight's third novel is a continuation of her impassioned chronicling of the tough, embattled, hardscrabble life faced by many black Americans. As with Darker than a Thousand Midnights and I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots, the principal setting is Rio Seco, a fictional California city outside of L.A. The ""gettin place"" of the title is a parcel of land along an old canal where the extended Thompson clan has its adobe homes and the family businesses-a garage and towing yard, a rib joint and a small olive orchard. When the bodies of two white women are found burned in a dilapidated car in the lot, and when the body of a man dressed in drag is discovered nearby, the Thompsons become the focus of law enforcement attentions while the video of the Rodney King beating plays incessantly on TV. Marcus Thompson, the youngest of eight boys of Hosea and Alma Thompson, has apparently escaped the clutches of Rio Seco life: he teaches history, works out in a fitness club, prefers sushi to chitlins and counts many ""sherberts"" (white yuppies) among his friends. But Marcus is drawn by his family loyalties into an armed defense against the powers that be-not only cops but also politicians and land developers. As usual, Straight paints a remarkably detailed picture of the moral, economic and historical web in which black families can be caught, and the way in which fear and honor contend in men's souls. Although The Gettin Place does suffer from a surplus of characters and plot twists as Straight attempts to reveal a land-grab conspiracy, her imagined Rio Seco is surely among the richest soils worked by an American novelist today. Author tour. (June)