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Deacon King Kong [DAPL book club kit]
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Library Journal Review
This latest from National Book Award winner McBride (The Good Lord Bird) offers a snapshot of 1969 Brooklyn, focusing on a housing project called the Cause Houses and the Italian neighborhood that borders it. It's a lively place peopled by characters named Bum-Bum and Hot Sausage, with the action centered on a good-natured old drunk named Sportcoat (or Deacon King Kong, a nickname derived from his potent drink of choice). In the book's opening pages, the underemployed and recently widowed Sportcoat shoots a local drug dealer, which provides a springboard for Sportcoat's life story and the larger story of the Cause Houses. These are dark, changing times: Heroin has crept in, and the segregation that was quietly tolerated for so long becomes a greater factor in the characters' lives. But McBride tells that story with a light hand and throughout emphasizes a desire for connection, e.g., Sportcoat's for his dead wife and NYPL lifer Potts's for Miss Gee, a Cause Houses stalwart. Hard though life is, community binds the characters together. VERDICT Much is unpacked by the time the book reaches its lovely and heartfelt climax, as McBride shows what can happen when people set aside their differences. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Spike Lee. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]--Stephen Schmidt, Greenwich Lib., CT
Publishers Weekly Review
McBride (The Good Lord Bird) delivers a sharply compassionate shaggy dog tale of a heavy drinking Baptist deacon who shoots a drug dealer and becomes a "walking dead man." In the autumn of 1969, handyman and occasional baseball coach Deacon Cuffy Lambkin, known to his friends as "Sportcoat" because of his colorful wardrobe or as "Deacon King Kong" on account of his equal affection for a moonshine with that name, inexplicably shoots off the ear of Deems Clemens, Sportcoat's former baseball protégé. This sets in motion a hunt for Sportcoat by Deems's employers that draws in Tommy "Elephant" Elefante, a sweetly melancholy Italian mover of "hot goods" whose grip on the neighborhood is slipping, and scrupulous police officer "Potts" Mullen, who is on the brink of retirement. As Deems's crew ineffectually try to murder Sportcoat, Elephant follows clues left by his dead father to find a hidden treasure, and Potts tries to keep the neighborhood safe while falling for the wife of a preacher, McBride unravels the mystery of Sportcoat's inexplicable ire against Deems. With a Dickensian wealth of quirky characters, a sardonic but humane sense of humor reminiscent of Mark Twain, and cartoonish action scenes straight out of Pynchon, McBride creates a lived-in world where everybody knows everybody's business. This generous, achingly funny novel will delight and move readers. (Mar.)
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