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Deacon King Kong

James McBride

Oprah calls her new book club pick “inspiring, with a Shakespearean cast of characters—and funny too.” James McBride’s first novel since 2013’s The Good Lord Bird isn’t a whodunit—it’s a whydunit. Set in a sprawling housing project in ’60s Brooklyn, the book starts with a bang when “Sportcoat,” a moonshine-loving church deacon, shoots a young drug dealer in broad daylight. Sportcoat doesn’t remember exactly what he’s done or why, but what unfolds is less a criminal investigation than a fast-moving and loopy story that seamlessly veers from murder mystery to bawdy slapstick comedy to heartfelt meditation on grief, love, and community. As everyone in the neighborhood reacts to the crime in their own unique fashion, we get to know a rich array of charming, complex characters with great nicknames like Hot Sausage, Sister Bum-Bum, and the Elephant. Deacon King Kong is a big, vibrant novel with a wonderful sense of its place and time. It’s an absolute joy to read.

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