Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
Riverhead Books, 2017
Genre: Short Stories
I am a sucker for short stories. First, they are short and I have the attention span of a gnat. Second, even if I don’t like them all, I am certain to find a few nuggets in any collection of short stories. Third, did I mention they are short?
I always admire the author of a good short story precisely because it is so hard to build a world and have an impact in such a small space. McBride’s debut short story collection, Five-Carat Soul, is a charming and poignant collection of stories that sets the stage for him to be a master of the genre. He easily transports the reader back through history to create each story, using the vernacular appropriate of the time and place. His plot twists and pacing make him an excellent storyteller.
This collection of stories range from the Civil War, to World War II, to the gates of hell, to a current-day zoo filled with talking animals. Some are surreal. Some are realistic. Each displays immense wisdom. And all are beautifully crafted, covering universal themes of race, slavery, freedom and the tragedy of war. Despite some difficult topics, McBride’s witty, eccentric collection provides hope in the seeds of compassion and humanity. There is certainly something for everyone in this collection.
I could provide a summary of each, but in keeping of the spirit of the genre, I’ll keep this short. I highly recommend reading these stories for yourself. My personal favorite was “Buck Boy”. I challenge any one of you to read it and not shed a tear. It literally brought me to my knees. I’d love to hear which one you enjoyed the most. Enjoy!
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