BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Deacon King Kong’ by James McBride

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Books featuring alcoholics as lead characters inevitably reflect the challenges of (a) unreliability, (b) the writer and readers’ own judgements, and (c) to rehab or not to rehab?

The incredibly skilled National Book Award winning author James McBride overcomes all obstacles by presenting the heroic titular character as a god in his own realm, a beaten-down Brooklyn housing project known as The Cause.

Sportcoat, as he is known, has recently lost his long-suffering wife, who is still visiting him, chastising him for ruining both their lives. However, within his community, he is known for his good deeds and for his ability to fix anything.

He’s got a past with many of the outstandingly drawn residents such as Sister Gee, his best friend Hot Sausage, and had been an inspiration to young Deems, a former baseball prodigy now turned drug dealer. Setting the plot in motion, Sportcoat shoots Deems at the project’s central beating heart courtyard, a brazen and shocking act witnessed by man residents.

Tumbling along after are plot branches involving the Five Ends Baptist Church, a retiring cop, and lonely Italian neighbor and his mother. The unpeeling of the layers and the rousing and touching conclusion makes this a book for the ages.

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