NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
A compelling and timely debut novel from an assured new voice: Three-Fifths is about a biracial black man, passing for white, who is forced to confront the lies of his past while facing the truth of his present when his best friend, just released from prison, involves him in a hate crime.
Pittsburgh, 1995. The son of a black father he’s never known, and a white mother he sometimes wishes he didn’t, twenty-two year-old Bobby Saraceno has passed for white his entire life. Raised by his bigoted maternal grandfather, Bobby has hidden the truth about his identity from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who has just returned home from prison a newly radicalized white supremacist. Bobby’s disparate worlds crash when, during the night of their reunion, Bobby witnesses Aaron mercilessly assault a young black man with a brick. Fearing for his safety and his freedom, Bobby must keep the secret of his mixed race from Aaron and conceal his unwitting involvement in the crime from the police. But Bobby’s delicate house of cards crumbles when his father enters his life after more than twenty years, forcing his past to collide with his present.
Three-Fifths is a story of secrets, identity, violence and obsession with a tragic conclusion that leaves all involved questioning the measure of a man, and was inspired by the author’s own experiences with identity as a biracial man during his time as a student in Pittsburgh amidst the simmering racial tension produced by the L.A. Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-nineties.
Vercher's uneven debut, a crime novel set in 1995 Pittsburgh, Pa., gets off to a fast, violent start. Bobby Saraceno, the 22-year-old son of a single white mother, at first doesn't recognize his best friend, Aaron, an investment banker's son who recently spent three years in prison for selling drugs. Aaron, who hooked up with the Aryan Brotherhood while behind bars, has shaved his head and beefed up. When the two friends go out to eat, Aaron's prison tattoos catch the eye of a young black man, Marcus Anderson. After a hostile verbal exchange, the ex-con hits Marcus in the head with a brick. The panicky Bobby drives away from the scene with Aaron. Marcus is transported to the ER, where he's treated by Robert Winston, an unhappily married black doctor, who later heads to a bar to drown his sorrows. There Winston encounters Bobby's mom, Isabel, whom he doesn't recognize, though they once had a fling. Isabel, who knows he's Bobby's father, doesn't identify herself. More coincidences follow as this gritty tale of race in America swerves into soap opera involving Isabel's efforts to bring Winston and Bobby together. The contrived plot might work better on the big screen than it does on the page.