The Magic Kingdom: Book summary and reviews of The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks

The Magic Kingdom

A Novel

by Russell Banks

The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks X
The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks
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  • Published Nov 2022
    352 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

From one of America's most beloved storytellers—a profound novel about belief, betrayal, and the transformation of one corner of the country.

In 1971, a property speculator named Harley Mann begins recording his life story onto a reel-to-reel machine. Reflecting on his childhood in the early twentieth century, Harley recounts that after his father's sudden death, his family migrated down to Florida's swamplands—mere miles away from what would become Disney World—to join a community of Shakers.

Led by Elder John, a generous man with a mysterious past, the colony devoted itself to labor, faith, and charity, rejecting all temptations that lay beyond the property. Though this way of life initially saved Harley and his family from complete ruin, when Harley began falling in love with Sadie Pratt, a consumptive patient living on the grounds, his loyalty to the Shakers and their conservative worldview grew strained and, ultimately, broke. As Harley dictates his story across more than half a century—meditating on youth, Florida's ever-changing landscape, and the search for an American utopia—the truth about Sadie, Elder John, and the Shakers comes to light, clarifying the past and present alike.

A dazzling tapestry of love and faith, memory and imagination, The Magic Kingdom questions what it means to look back and accept one's place in history. With an expert eye and stunning vision, Russell Banks delivers a wholly captivating portrait of a man navigating Americana and the passage of time.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Banks's penetrating dissection of the American dream and its frequently unfulfilled promises is consistently profound. This is his best work in some time." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[The Magic Kingdom's] core is the emotional mirror of memory ... A multilayered tale of innocence and guilt from a gifted storyteller." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Banks' prose is … melodic, the work of a seasoned raconteur. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, simultaneously full of pride and doubt. An elegiac and introspective portrait of a young man and how his fear of loneliness manifests that of which he is most afraid." - Booklist

"Russell Banks's new novel is eerily timely. Can what's gone wrong in the past offer keys to the future? The Magic Kingdom confronts our longings for Paradise; also the inner serpents that are to be found in all such enchanted gardens." - Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments, via Twitter

"As always happens when I read Russell Banks's work, I couldn't put it down. That is the Banks magic—the propulsive force of the narrative, even as his stories twist and turn through various diversions, asides, and introspections—for the narrative voice is always constant, and that constancy never fails to hold the reader in its grip. Banks is still working at full blast, creating work as good as anything he has ever done and—is it possible?—perhaps even better." - Paul Auster, author of 4 3 2 1

This information about The Magic Kingdom was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Russell Banks Author Biography

Photo: Robert Sargent Fay

Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class environment, which has played a major role in his writing.

Mr. Banks (who was the first in his family to go to college) attended Colgate University for less than a semester, and later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before he could support himself as a writer, he tried his hand at plumbing and as a shoe salesman and window trimmer. He taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, University of New Hampshire, New England College, New York University, and Princeton University.

A prolific writer of fiction, his titles include Searching for Survivors, Family ...

... Full Biography
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