Summary and book reviews of Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

Five-Carat Soul

by James McBride

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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About this Book

Book Summary

Exciting new fiction from James McBride, the first since his National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird.

The stories in Five-Carat Soul—none of them ever published before—spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. They're funny and poignant, insightful and unpredictable, imaginative and authentic—all told with McBride's unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strangers find themselves thrown together and face unexpected judgment. An American president draws inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable. And members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band recount stories from their own messy and hilarious lives. 

As McBride did in his National Book award-winning The Good Lord Bird and his bestselling The Color of Water, he writes with humor and insight about how we struggle to understand who we are in a world we don't fully comprehend. The result is a surprising, perceptive, and evocative collection of stories that is also a moving exploration of our human condition.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Five-Carat Soul is woven around themes of slavery and racial segregation — from the many references to Lincoln, to the story of an all African-American regiment that fought in World War II. These work in concert with the collection's religious overtones to assert the significance of the soul. In a world beset by differences (of skin color, of species), God is the great equalizer. McBride's superb wit and imagination ensure that this is accomplished without sermons or rhetoric.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review (658 words).

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Media Reviews

Vulture

If there’s a mode in which McBride can’t write brilliantly, he has yet to prove it.

Bustle

Each told with McBride's trademark insight, eye for character, and masterful story-telling ability, these pieces are sure to knock you out.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. McBride emerges here as a master of what some might call 'wisdom fiction,' common to both The Twilight Zone and Bernard Malamud, offering instruction and moral edification to his readers without providing an Aesop-like moral.

Booklist

Starred Review. Stellar... McBride's short stories joyfully abound with indelible characters whose personal philosophies are far wiser than their circumstances allow... [He] brings the snappy satire that endeared him to fans of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the courage and pathos that shone in The Miracle at St. Anna.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Humming with invention and energy...McBride adopts a variety of dictions without losing his own distinctly supple, musical voice; as identities shift, 'truths' are challenged, and justice is done or, more often, subverted.

Library Journal

Starred Review. An exceptional group of stories... There’s a good amount of humor here, but most of these pieces are deeply emotional. This is McBride at his A-list best.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

African-Americans Soldiers in the Civil War

In "Father Abe," a short story in Five-Carat Soul, McBride mentions two all-black regiments that fought for the Union army during the Civil War — the 32nd United States Colored Infantry and the 9th Louisiana Colored Infantry.

Memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment When war broke out in 1861, African Americans were barred from serving, but this rule was set aside by the passage of the Second Confiscation and Militia Act and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Over the course of the war, 179,000 African-American men served in upwards of 160 units. One of the first regiments was the all-black Massachusetts 54th, formed in February 1863, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, a white man.

This regiment is known for its courageous (but disastrous) attack on the Port of ...

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