One of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2017
“A pinball machine zinging with sharp dialogue, breathtaking plot twists and naughty humor... McBride at his brave and joyous best.” —New York Times Book Review
Exciting new fiction from James McBride, the first since his National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird.
The stories in Five-Carat Soul—none of them ever published before—spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. They’re funny and poignant, insightful and unpredictable, imaginative and authentic—all told with McBride’s unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strangers find themselves thrown together and face unexpected judgment. An American president draws inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable. And members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band recount stories from their own messy and hilarious lives.
As McBride did in his National Book award-winning The Good Lord Bird and his bestselling The Color of Water, he writes with humor and insight about how we struggle to understand who we are in a world we don’t fully comprehend. The result is a surprising, perceptive, and evocative collection of stories that is also a moving exploration of our human condition.
Humming with invention and energy, the stories collected in McBride's first fiction book since his National Book Award winning The Good Lord Bird again affirm his storytelling gifts. In the opening story, "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set," vintage toy dealer Leo Banskoff gets a lead on a priceless collectible: the long-lost train set made for Robert E. Lee's son Graham by one of Smith & Wesson's founders. In one of several surprises that upend his assumptions about value, Banskoff prepares for fierce negotiation but finds that the train's impoverished, devoutly evangelical owner wants to give it away. In "The Fish Man Angel," a weary President Lincoln makes a late-night visit to his dead son Willie's horse, weeping alone before overhearing words that change history. In "The Christmas Dance," a Ph.D. candidate begs two of the only surviving members of the African-American Ninety-Second Infantry Division to describe its role in a senselessly bloody World War II encounter; though their reluctance jeopardizes his thesis, ultimately the men unlike the government they served honor even unspoken promises. One of two groups of linked stories reimagines the animal world, while the other visits a gritty neighborhood of Uniontown, Penn., during the Vietnam War as teenagers grapple with limitation and longing. McBride adopts a variety of dictions without losing his own distinctively supple, musical voice; as identities shift, "truths" are challenged, and justice is done or, more often, subverted.