The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was not a book I would have normally picked up. It made it onto my read list as an obligatory adult fiction novel and because it had been a National Book Award winner (2013). During the prologue I was really skeptical, that lasted less than a minute of listening to the audiobook. Less than 5 minutes into the book I was laughing and hooked. Before I was 20% of the way through the book I was recommending it to friends and family members. The story was thoroughly engaging and dealt with serious issues while remaining funny and light-hearted. Michael Boatman did an amazing job of bringing the characters to life- and this may sound a little racist, but he did a great "stereotypical" Southern black guy and Appalachian abolitionist voice for the two main characters Henry [Henrietta] Shakleford, a liberated slave, and John Brown. The book was obviously fiction, but in addition to entertaining me and doing a good job of highlighting the issues and struggles at the time in regards to slavery. It also spurned in me the desire to learn more about John Brown and the pre-Civil War time because the book was so obviously fiction in regards to John Brown it is hard to know how much is true. Certainly many of the events were, but I doubt many of the conversations were. It just concerns me the number of people who have said that this book enlightened them in their understanding of John Brown. The Good Lord Bird itself, if I remember correctly was a woodpecker [probably the ivory-billed woodpecker], but was an amazing bit of symbolism. I ended up taking a day or two off after the book to simply ponder it, which is very rare for me. I still cannot get it out of my head. I look forward to reading some of James McBride's works, or maybe even re-reading this one.
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