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Deacon King Kong [book club kit]
2020
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Library Journal Review
Why would a fumbling, aging deacon shuffle into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn and shoot the project's ruthless teen drug dealer in front of everyone? No one knows. Though he cannot even remember the incident, this man, known as Sportcoat, seemingly sets off a spiral of events that impact the lives of characters caught up in the turmoil of 1969. African American and Latinx residents, white neighbors, and the local police department find themselves caught between the Five Ends Baptist Church, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, cultural misunderstandings, and the onslaught of drugs and their effects on the youth of this declining area. There's plenty of humor in this story of the machinations of tough criminals who have turned the heads of youth from baseball toward the drug industry. The author humanizes church-goers and criminals alike as he enlightens readers without excusing the actions of his characters. Change inevitably comes. How you handle that change makes the difference. Remembrances of Jazz and the Negro Leagues are juxtaposed against the new players on the scene. Narrator Dominic Hoffman gives a masterful performance. Sounding young then old, wizened then clueless, Hoffman brings to life each of the eccentric, realistic characters. In between the twisting plotline, the witty dialogue, and the comic scenes is an insightful look into the lives of people living in the midst of adjustments, redirections, and cultural upheaval. VERDICT This is an essential purchase which will be both entertaining and illuminating for those interested in history, diversity, and racism.--Lisa Youngblood, Harker Heights P.L., TX
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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