Friday, February 7, 2014

Staff Review: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

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If you like colorful language and unique dialog in an historical setting, you should enjoy The Good Lord Bird, the 2013 National Book Award winner by James McBride.  When abolitionist John Brown frees a young slave he is under the impression that he is helping a young black girl.  The child, nicknamed Onion by Brown, is unwillingly swept into the Captain's crusade to end slavery.  The story covers approximately 4 years and is told through Onion's eyes.  He portrays John Brown as a strong, righteous man who is a religious fanatic that truly believes in his cause and is willing to sacrifice everything to end slavery.  During his time with Brown, Onion is treated with respect and kindness even though survival was often in question.

Onion's perspective is often humorous but never lets the reader forget the injustices and violence brought about by slavery.  At times the story bogs down with the repetition of Captain Brown's rants, slowing down the middle of the book for me, but the story ends strong.  We know what happens to John Brown, but it's Onion's story you want to finish. His life ends up taking many unexpected turns, but Onion remains resilient throughout the book.

-Michelle, Circulation

To read more about John Brown and the Harper's Ferry raid try:
  • Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks (Fiction Banks) An atmospheric novel of John Brown's life told from the perspective of his son Owen.
  • Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz (LP 973.7116 HOR) A richly detailed account of the Harper's Ferry raid from the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
  • John Brown's Spy: the adventurous life and tragic confession of John E. Cook by Steven Lubet (Biography Cook) A biography of John E. Cook, who helped John Brown in the planning of his raid.
  • John Brown's Trial by Brian McGinty (973.7116 MCG) McGinty's legal background allows him to focus on the impact of Brown's trial on the United States leading up to the Civil War.

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