The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2020
*** Best Novel of 2020!
“Deacon King Kong” is many things: a mystery novel, a crime novel, an urban farce, a portrait of a project community. There’s even some western in here. The novel is, in other words, a lot. Fortunately, it is also deeply felt, beautifully written and profoundly humane; McBride’s ability to inhabit his characters’ foibled, all-too-human interiority helps transform a fine book into a great one. He has written beautifully before, in his beloved memoir, “The Color of Water,” and, with terrifying irreverence, in his National Book Award-winning novel, “The Good Lord Bird.” But “Deacon King Kong” reads like he’s tapped a whole fresh seam of inspiration and verve. It’s clear that he’s having a blast, and his spirit of funning irreverence supercharges the entire narrative like home-brewed black lightning. McBride’s got jokes like Ali Wong’s got jokes. Like your colmado’s got jokes. I made the mistake of reading “Deacon King Kong” on the Tokyo subway and my nonstop chortling made me no friends.
But just because McBride is playing doesn’t mean he’s fooling around. For all the laughs, he never loses sight of the terrible longitudinal harm that African diasporic and Latine peoples have suffered in the New World. He doesn’t just pivot from the humor to the agony; he seems to deploy both modes at once, and it speaks to his talents that he does so with dexterous aplomb. McBride will be cracking wise and without missing a beat he’ll hurl a thunderbolt whose clarifying rage could light up half a borough
- from the NY Times review of this book by Junot Díaz
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*** WATCH a PBS interview with the author about this novel…