Rollicking, poignant, and unforgettable, the short stories of James McBride’s Five-Carat Soul (Riverhead, $27) treat us to subjects ranging from Lincoln and Civil War soldiers to World War II, antique toy collectors, a boxer fighting for his judgment in the afterlife, and animals able to telecommunicate in a zoo, to a group of boys growing up and playing in a band in a poor neighborhood in Pennsylvania. You’ll want to read this book for the sheer breadth of characters and humanity. The voices are each unique, hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and the plots are woven together along themes of racial history and cross-cultural contact. Like the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, McBride’s stories are imaginative and unpredictable, bursting with soul and a dark but playful humor. The title piece is a series of vignettes about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band. The lives of these musicians, and the lives of the other residents of the Bottom, are tragic, messy, and often hilarious. Five-Carat Soul is a delightful and quick read that you won’t want to end.
Five-Carat Soul - James McBride