Oprah's Book Club Pick
A New York Times Bestseller
One of The New York Times Top Ten Books of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Novel
One of TIME Magazine's Ten Best Novels of the Year
From the author of the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
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 acclaimed The Good Lord Bird isn’t a whodunit, it’s a whydunit. In 1960s Brooklyn, a moonshine-loving church deacon nicknamed Sportcoat walks into a housing project and shoots a drug dealer. But he can’t remember why he did it. The openhearted story that unfolds is much more than a straightforward crime mystery, veering seamlessly from heartfelt meditations on grief to bawdy slapstick comedy as everyone in the neighborhood reacts to the murder in their own special way. From the moment he first steps into the shoes of McBride’s trigger-happy, porkpie-hat-wearing hero, veteran narrator Dominic Hoffman skillfully adapts to every shift in tone. He inhabits a colorful array of characters with great nicknames like the Elephant and Hot Sausage. This audiobook really drives home that Deacon King Kong is a vivid, life-affirming joy of a novel.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Deacon King Kong
One of the finest audiobooks that I have ever enjoyed. Listening to the narrator Dominic Hoffman is like sitting down, drink in hand, before a superb raconteur as he spins out one long captivating story. James McBride has a gift for vivid, unforgettable characters and spot -on dialog. A great story, well told.
A Modern Masterpiece
This story was so rich in the characters it presented. They were the neighbors, friends and adversaries that make up a city housing project. The older folks, the kids, the drug dealers, the deacons, the single moms , the broken-hearted and the church goers. And then there are the outsiders, just as richly presented, who skirt in and give the story even more depth. The heroes in this story are the least folks you’d expect and the way it all unfolds is intense, hilarious and deliciously unpredictable. I truly fell into this book and didn’t want it to end.
Surprising, beautiful book
After the first few pages, I almost put this book down. The nicknames, the familiar ethnic settings (churches, housing projects), the familiar themes (drugs, black on black crime), can be exhausting in literature written by black authors about black characters. But I kept with it, and a beautiful, original, deftly written, completely captivating story emerged. The characters are so rich and complex, and lessons about the human spirit and humanity as a whole abound. And, unlike so many endings that leave you wanting more or scratching your head, Deacon King Kong has a perfect ending. I loved this book. James McBride is a gift and this book is a treasure.