Last month I was pottering around in the front room doing some tidying and sorting when suddenly there was a knock at the door. When I opened it there stood a courier, with a package for me – a black jiffy bag. I hadn’t been expecting a delivery so from the get-go my curiosity was piqued, to say the least!
When I opened the package, I found a simple paperback book, its cover spartan, with simple black and white backgrounds and writing (above is the back of the book – the front is half white, half black). No author, no title. Just a hashtag and a message/invitation. To #readwithoutprejudice. Now that I’ve read it I’m convinced I know who the author is – I’ve told Matthew my pick, as he doesn’t really enjoy fiction, so I can enjoy the satisfaction of getting it right when there’s a big reveal if I’ve backed the right horse, but without spoiling the guessing game for anyone else.
The book is told from three points of view. The three characters we walk alongside are Ruth, an experienced and talented nurse, who is black; Turk, a tightly-wound, violent and vehement white supremacist; and Kennedy, a hardworking public defender, who is white. Through these characters the author takes us on a journey exploring race, politics, and the thorny subject of privelege. It’s an incredibly sad story, with some real violence and horror within it, but by offering three such different points the author is able to explore the issues from a variety of angles.
I was impressed by the author’s willingness to allow the characters to have flaws and challenges – they are truly multifacted, deep characters. With a book like this it would be so easy to be facile and cast people into two-dimensional roles – hardworking nurse, good; white supremacist, bad; but by having us walk alongside the characters you get a real sense of them as people. Messy, messy people.
I enjoyed the pace and the drive of the story – it’s a taut, well-plotted piece and there’s very little faffing. Details come into view at speed and the book takes you with it. The author isn’t afraid to leave with you with questions, worries or what ifs, either – even at the resolution point there are things we still can’t know, or which are hard to make peace with.
I think this story is an important one, especially in these troubled times where racism again seems to be rearing its ugly head in a violent and overt way. As well as that, I found this book’s examination of privelege, and the subversive kind of racism which exists in places like the US and the UK, thought-provoking. I think fiction always has a role in the conversation about such matters, and this book is an interesting voice to have involved. Well worth a read.
Thank you very much to Hodder for the review proof, which I received for free. All opinions my own, naturally.