In fourteen sweeping and sublime stories, five of which have been published in The New Yorker, the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World shows that his grasp of the human condition is firmer than ever
Returning to the city that inspired his first prizewinning book, Lost in the City, Jones has filled this new collection with people who call Washington, D.C., home. Yet it is not the city's power brokers that most concern him but rather its ordinary citizens. All Aunt Hagar's Children turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them further north, people who in Jones's masterful hands, emerge as fully human and morally complex, whether they are country folk used to getting up with the chickens or people with centuries of education behind them.
In the title story, in which Jones employs the first-person rhythms of a classic detective story, a Korean War veteran investigates the death of a family friend whose sorry destiny seems inextricable from his mother's own violent Southern childhood. In "In the Blink of God's Eye" and "Tapestry" newly married couples leave behind the familiarity of rural life to pursue lives of urban promise only to be challenged and disappointed.
With the legacy of slavery just a stone's throw away and the future uncertain, Jones's cornucopia of characters will haunt readers for years to come.
Coming after the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Known World, Jones's second collection of stories journeys the length and breadth of Washington, D.C., past and present, for inspiration. James, stentorian and assured, sounds like an East Coast version of Charlton Heston's Moses, intoning Jones's prose like a contemporary version of the 10 Commandments. There is an odd disjunction between James's mostly uninflected reading and the heavily accented dialect he provides for Jones's characters when they speak, but James makes it work. Jones, acclaimed as one of the most talented American writers currently at work, composes smooth, measured prose that demands a reader like James, who follows the ebb and flow of Jones's stories like the score of an opera.
Half of the stories are relatable to African Americans living in Washington during this time period and how they got there. The other half was too mystical and may require a secret code to understand. And left me the reader without an understanding of the author goal in writing.