Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 380 pages
Published: August 2023

It took me a bit to get into The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. The story begins with the discovery of a skeleton at the bottom of a well. The reader is then transported back a couple of decades where an amalgamation of diverse characters living in a small community called Chicken Hill in Pennsylvania are featured. In Chicken Hill, where Black and Jewish people appear to co-exist peacefully during a time of extreme racial tension, we learn about an orphaned boy who needs protection bringing the two ethnic communities, as well as other unlikely allies, together to provide a safe haven for the boy. 

There are a lot of characters in this book with just as many subplots, and while this story can be difficult to follow, if you close read it, the details are interwoven methodically to create a well-rounded story. McBride peppers the plot with are a myriad of nuggets that pull on your heart strings and sometimes make you laugh. I appreciated the emotional aspects of the story. Once I got acclimated to McBride's writing style I found my rhythm and really enjoyed how he told this slowly-unfolding story. I did find the ending to be a bit rushed, and I think the story could have been written without the abuse of a child and still been just as powerful. 

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed the plot, prose, and especially the protagonist. I can definitely see why this book is Barnes & Noble's Book of the Year (2023) and on so many other favorited lists. It's a slow build, but I do feel the payoff in the end is worth it. Highly recommend! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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