The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Fiction pick by Jean-Louis

goodlordbird(Riverhead Books, 2013)

Winner of the 2013 National Book Award, The Good Lord Bird follows the exploits and travails of young Henry Shackleford in 1856 Kansas Territory. Henry gets caught up in the battles between the anti- and pro-slavery forces that are raging in the territory at that time. Our author sets Henry into the orbit of the most dangerous of all the anti-slavery activists, none other than the abolitionist John Brown.

The novel is a story of turmoil and trouble all brought to us through the lens of a boy on the cusp of manhood, who through circumstances, comes to be masquerading as Henrietta, a young woman. The novel moves through a series of reveals and masquerades, exploring how the very institution of slavery forced black Americans into subterfuge, disguise, and intrigues in order to stay alive.

McBride explores historical events in a lively and exciting fashion. Riding along with the Brown family–John and his sons, daughters and sons-in-law, makes for a dynamic and treacherous story. Culminating with the raid on Harper’s Ferry, John Brown’s exploits were reckless and downright crazy, but ultimately spurred America forward in the fight to throw off slavery.

Read this novel to learn a little about American history and to enjoy a rollicking adventure story! The novel is a very deserving winner of the 2013 National Book Award and proves that race relations remains a truly captivating story for our neighbours to the south.

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