Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: Song Yet Sung by James McBride

The February book selection for the book club I run at George Hail Library is Song Yet Sung by James McBride. I was excited to read this book for a couple of reasons. First, I had read James McBride's memoir, The Color of Water, years ago and was fascinated by the story of his growing up in poverty with a determined and strong-willed mother who managed to raise a large and successful family pretty much on her own. Secondly, Song Yet Sung was one of the books considered for the Reading Across Rhode Island (RARI) selection for 2009 and the synopsis and comments made about the book by the nominating committee intrigued me. It seemed like it would be a great choice for book club. Great topic, well-respected author, good recommendations. Well, the book left me a little flat. The story is about Liz, a slave on the run from a brutal slave trader and her posse. Along the way she encounters several other slaves and free blacks who help her by communicating with her by means of the "code", a secret language used by slaves on the run. The story itself was interesting but I was confused at times by McBride's use of poetic language and the parallel stories that were unfolding simultaneously with Liz's. I had difficulty keeping all of the stories straight and separate in my mind. I wasn't always completely sure who was running from or toward whom at any given moment. Of course, this might just be me. It will be interesting to hear what the other members of the book club think tomorrow night when we meet to discuss the book. I'll let you know.

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