Held captive by her employers -- and by her own demons -- on a mysterious farm, a widow struggles to reunite with her young son in this uniquely American story of freedom, perseverance, and survival.
Darlene, once an exemplary wife and a loving mother to her young son, Eddie, finds herself devastated by the unforeseen death of her husband. Unable to cope with her grief, she turns to drugs, and quickly forms an addiction. One day she disappears without a trace.
Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Eddie, now left behind in a panic-stricken search for her, Darlene has been lured away with false promises of a good job and a rosy life. A shady company named Delicious Foods shuttles her to a remote farm, where she is held captive, performing hard labor in the fields to pay off the supposed debt for her food, lodging, and the constant stream of drugs the farm provides to her and the other unfortunates imprisoned there.
In Delicious Foods, James Hannaham tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. Through Darlene's haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, through the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, and through the irreverent and mischievous voice of the drug that narrates Darlene's travails, Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose infuses this harrowing experience with grace and humor.
The desperate circumstances that test the unshakeable bond between this mother and son unfold into myth, and Hannaham's treatment of their ordeal spills over with compassion. Along the way we experience a tale at once contemporary and historical that wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom, forgiveness and redemption, tenacity and the will to survive.
Hannaham's (God Says No) seductive and disturbing second novel grips the reader from page one. In the prologue, 17-year-old Eddie has escaped from a farm somewhere in Louisiana, terrified he's headed closer to a place "where someone might capture or kill him, away toward freedom." Hannaham safely delivers Eddie into a new life, though one full of agonizing memories, "like dark birds poised to attack him." The narrative then shifts back to the story of Eddie's mother, Darlene, an educated woman devastated by the loss her husband, Nat, a community organizer in a small town in Louisiana. In her grief, Darlene disappears into a fog of drug use; Scotty, who is the book's charismatic narrator for most of the proceedings, is in fact the literal personification of crack ("Her idea of heaven was that the two of us could kick it together without nobody judging our relationship"). When Darlene is lured into taking a job on a mysterious farm, "it felt like the first luck Darlene had touched in the whole six years since she lost Nat." Instead, it's a horror show of human suffering, through which Darlene and Eddie struggle to reunite. Hannaham's skill at portraying the worst of human experience while keeping you glued to the page and totally taken with the characters is nothing short of magic. The light he shines on the realities of racial injustice, human trafficking, drug abuse, and exploitation make a deep imprint on the reader. But as devastating as Darlene, Eddie, and the other laborers' situations become, the heroic themes of love, forgiveness, and redemption carry this memorable story.