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Five-Carat Soul

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Five-Carat Soul PDF, ePub eBook The stories in Five-Carat Soul--none of them ever published before--spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. 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 strang The stories in Five-Carat Soul--none of them ever published before--spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. 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.

30 review for Five-Carat Soul

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5 McBride shows us in this fantastic grouping of stories, a wide range of experiences from the viewpoint of blacks. They cover different points of history, from the Civil War and on. The Five-Carat Soul was the band name of a group of youths, starting from the age of nine, telling of life in the Bottoms, the section of a town in Pennsylvania that they called home. There are several of these connecting stories, narrated by a young boy called, Butter. Chronicling daily life but also some notable 4.5 McBride shows us in this fantastic grouping of stories, a wide range of experiences from the viewpoint of blacks. They cover different points of history, from the Civil War and on. The Five-Carat Soul was the band name of a group of youths, starting from the age of nine, telling of life in the Bottoms, the section of a town in Pennsylvania that they called home. There are several of these connecting stories, narrated by a young boy called, Butter. Chronicling daily life but also some notable happenings. I enjoyed these stories, very realistically portrayed and experiencing them from the viewpoint of a young boy made them even more noteworthy. I did, however, have three favorites. The first story about a white toy collector who covers and has the opportunity it to acquire a one of a kind train set. Made to order for Robert E. Lee, who gave it to his young son, it is discovered in the home of a black preacher. What happens is surprising and the ending even more so. Two stories made me cry. One set shortly after the Civil War and concerns a young boy named Abe Lincoln. Some of the black soldiers tell him his daddy, Abe Lincoln would be visiting soon. The boy believes him, and in fact Abe does come, accompanied by someone unexpected. The ending of the story is also unexpected. The second story is the Christmas dance and the story within is told by a few men who had been part of the Buffalo Soldiers. Again the ending is unexpected and quite beautiful. This may be my favorite book of short stories this year. Though will admit that I didn't care for the last, those were a bit of a let down. All in all though these stories are in and of themselves complete, something that in shorts is not always the case. I think McBride is a natural born storyteller, which is what makes this genre a perfect fit. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    On his website James McBride has a short biographical video in which he talks about his mother, his music, and his writing. Every one of the twelve kids in his New York City family growing up played music and read books. McBride himself plays saxophone, and played in a traveling band while writing his first book, The Color of Water. McBride says “we’re all the same…there’s none of that black and white stuff when one gets to the nursing homes…they’re all just happy their body parts are still func On his website James McBride has a short biographical video in which he talks about his mother, his music, and his writing. Every one of the twelve kids in his New York City family growing up played music and read books. McBride himself plays saxophone, and played in a traveling band while writing his first book, The Color of Water. McBride says “we’re all the same…there’s none of that black and white stuff when one gets to the nursing homes…they’re all just happy their body parts are still functioning.” That may well be, but please let’s not wait that long to get past race. McBride’s yarn-spinning tone is in full voice right from the first story, “The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set,” where we learn about the fabulously valuable toy railroad set made for General Robert E. Lee’s five-year-old son Graham by Horace Smith, of Smith & Wesson fame. Rumors of the train set swirled for more than a century before a photograph of it appeared one day at the home of a seller of vintage toys living in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania. The very finest stories in this collection come at the end, including “Mr. P & The Wind,” a fable which really should be published as a stand-alone paperback storybook for adults with pen-and-ink drawings, like that of Chekov or Kipling at the end of the 19th Century. In this story, animals residing in a zoo discuss their lives before zoo-dom, what their real natures are like, and their understanding of reincarnation. One thing they’d learned very well in the zoo was that humans—the Smelly Ones—were able to kill expeditiously but they had little to no understanding of the Order of Life. This piece ranks as a bedtime story for grownups, a just-long-enough, miraculously inoffensive and reassuring vehicle for dispensing wisdom and life experience, certainly exceeding the feel-good but ultimately empty bloviation of the Dr. Seuss book often gifted at graduations, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The animals communicate in Thought Shapes which do not register to humans who have not learned the language. In this way, whales can communicate with lions and panthers, difficult and exciting though that is to comprehend. A Smelly One, Mr. P, learns to Thought Shape. Four of the stories in this collection center around the five-and-a-half-member Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band, and we could see what they were learning from their neighborhood: Pig and Dirt were former members, Bunny, Dex, half-member Ray-Ray, Beanie, Goat, and Butter, our narrator. The time was different back then, when the band practiced over Mr. Woo’s grocery, before Mr. Woo killed “Buck Boy,” who had tried to rob him. Then there was “Blub” the young man the band boys always thought was younger. He had a tender heart and was easily led, and ended up working a murder charge until Butter could tell the court a story about Blub back when he gave more love than he got, back when a girl with a cat could darn near break his heart. “It ain’t him,” Butter would testify. “They got the wrong man.” In “The Moaning Bench” we get a whiff of the everlasting…the everlasting hellfire that awaits those who have not examined what it means to be penitent. In “The Christmas Dance” we review again the role of black soldiers in Italy during the Second World War. Two survivors of a horribly-ravaged regiment were surprised in a 1944 Christmas Day attack that took out most of their fellow soldiers. On Christmas Day every year they get together to dance, and to remember. Two stories tell of Abraham Lincoln, whose difficult choices and grief binds him to us even now. “The Fish Man Angel” was my second favorite story in the collection. Lincoln’s loss is palpable as he curls up in the stable with his dead boy Wille’s favorite pony, sharing loneliness and warmth. From that vantage point he overhears the cruelty of one black man speaking to another and fixes that problem at least. The second of the Lincoln stories, “Father Abe,” describes a young mixed-race orphan called Abe Lincoln seeking clarification about his parentage: surely if his name is the same as the president, wouldn’t that man would be his father? The 9th Louisiana Colored Infantry Regiment, briefly and exhaustedly paused in Richmond, VA near the end of the war, found Little Abe persistent in his demand to know which man was his father. Stories like these seem designed to entrance even much-older children who have their own children. That’s the thing about McBride. His writing allows adults time to relax, to play a little. He feeds our credulous, childlike selves; we put aside his work to think on it a bit. McBride has a reservoir of humor and goodwill that saves his work from both despair and from too great an optimism.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    These stories cover a range of places and time periods. Some of them are poignant, charming and surprising, while others are heavy handed and clumsy. For me, the better stories are at the beginning of the book and I particularly liked the first story "The Underground Railroad Box Car Set". Unfortunately, I found "Mr. P and the Wind" to be an unbearable allegory with talking zoo animals. Since it was the final, and longest, story in the book it left me with a poor impression. However, overall the These stories cover a range of places and time periods. Some of them are poignant, charming and surprising, while others are heavy handed and clumsy. For me, the better stories are at the beginning of the book and I particularly liked the first story "The Underground Railroad Box Car Set". Unfortunately, I found "Mr. P and the Wind" to be an unbearable allegory with talking zoo animals. Since it was the final, and longest, story in the book it left me with a poor impression. However, overall there was a lot more good than bad with this collection.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tayari Jones

    The best thing about short story collections is also the worst thing. This is that each story is. free-standing entity. You can read it and enjoy it and move on to the next. If you don't enjoy it, you can still move on to the next. I have never read a short story collection that didn't have at least ONE story that I could appreciate. This collection is full of winners! My favorite stories were the ones in the second half of the book. THE CHRISTMAS DANCE had me sniffling in public. It was so odd-- The best thing about short story collections is also the worst thing. This is that each story is. free-standing entity. You can read it and enjoy it and move on to the next. If you don't enjoy it, you can still move on to the next. I have never read a short story collection that didn't have at least ONE story that I could appreciate. This collection is full of winners! My favorite stories were the ones in the second half of the book. THE CHRISTMAS DANCE had me sniffling in public. It was so odd-- I knew exactly where the story was going but it broke my heart just the same. My favorite favorite favorite was a long story-- broken into five chapters-- about the secret lives of zoo animals. I know it may sound silly, but it was so smart, funny, and emotional. I just loved it. The stories in the middle about the young boys in a band were not as moving, but they were still pretty good. My guess is that much will be made about the guy who sells vintage toys and wants to buy Robert E Lee's toy train. I was impressed with that story on a head-level, but my heart was most moved by the stories in the latter half of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a collection of amazing short stories by James McBride. Some of the stories are quite different from one another, yet there are definitely common threads, such as the stories about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Band. They all had a subtle spark of humor and some of the stories had remarkably surprising endings. I like stories that are unpredictable, and these stories definitely fit the bill. I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook. The various stories had different narra This is a collection of amazing short stories by James McBride. Some of the stories are quite different from one another, yet there are definitely common threads, such as the stories about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Band. They all had a subtle spark of humor and some of the stories had remarkably surprising endings. I like stories that are unpredictable, and these stories definitely fit the bill. I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook. The various stories had different narrators; Arthur Morey, Nile Bullock, Prentice Onayemi, and Dominic Hoffman. Each narrator was excellent; I highly recommend listening to the audiobook!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    My first McBride (as I did not read the much-lauded Good Lord Bird), Five-Carat Soul is an eclectic mix of shorts--one of those deals where you average stars because it scores 5 on technical merit and 3 on entertainment value. Some of the stories are set in our time, some in history, and some in a fantasy world of sorts. The opener, about a toy collector who's on to the Holy Grail of toys (a toy train once owned by Robert E. Lee, of all people), gets the set off to a peppy start but ends rather My first McBride (as I did not read the much-lauded Good Lord Bird), Five-Carat Soul is an eclectic mix of shorts--one of those deals where you average stars because it scores 5 on technical merit and 3 on entertainment value. Some of the stories are set in our time, some in history, and some in a fantasy world of sorts. The opener, about a toy collector who's on to the Holy Grail of toys (a toy train once owned by Robert E. Lee, of all people), gets the set off to a peppy start but ends rather flat. You know. Where you scratch your head and say, "Really? That's the best you can do? Then you're trying too hard." Two of the stories are extended and divided into chapters--the eponymous one, about young boys who are pals and supposedly form a band (though the band figures precious little here) and the finale, which offers animals in a zoo who communicate in "Thought Speak." Shades of The Knife of Never Letting Go. Humans are called "Smelly Ones" and are, in most respects, inferior to animals (called "Higher Orders"). Shades of Gulliver's Travels with its witty Houyhnhnms. I don't know. It all sort of got out of control and everybody thought spoke too much for their own good. More enjoyable was "Father Abe" (shades of Lincoln in the Bardo), which features Honest Abe visiting the stable to see son Tad's pony after son Tad dies. Abe overhears some of the slaves chatting it up, esp. a father-son duo meant to add poignancy to the father-no-son duo. The collection has been compared to Twain and, in its way, that's a valid claim. Check out the dialect. McBride is a cool hand with the dialect. And Twain was a big fan of animals as higher-ups in the scheme of things. The damned human race did little for Mark (except provide big fat satirical targets). A rather quick, sprightly read. Some Civil War, some contemporary, and some zooey. Overall, a worthwhile collection. You'll like some more than others, but show me a short story collection where that is NOT the case and I'll make you mayor.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Insanely fantastically smart, poignant, and funny (when called for) short stories. James McBride has considerable range as a storyteller and this collection of stories proves that point. I hadn't read Mr. McBride in a while and this collection reminded me, hot damn! the Man can write. Highly recommended!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Blue

    Listened via LeVar Burton Reads podcast. (Bonus (#12.5?)) Enjoyed the slice-of-life and the writing that did well to give an impression of exploring a new world - an insular community shunned by those outside and therefore ignoring them in return. I dropped a star for the ending. The interview with the author after the story ended up confirming the worst interpretation of the ending, leaving it hollow and me wondering if the end was solely for shock value and ought to have been cut entirely. (vie Listened via LeVar Burton Reads podcast. (Bonus (#12.5?)) Enjoyed the slice-of-life and the writing that did well to give an impression of exploring a new world - an insular community shunned by those outside and therefore ignoring them in return. I dropped a star for the ending. The interview with the author after the story ended up confirming the worst interpretation of the ending, leaving it hollow and me wondering if the end was solely for shock value and ought to have been cut entirely. (view spoiler)[It was an open ending, which could have been that the mother did not want to leave the field blank and put her eldest's name in, or that her significant other had the oldest named after him (but then he would be on the certificate), but instead the author confirmed the option (less bluntly) that the mother raped her son and bore three children by him. It does not seem to surve a purpose, or add any meaning to the story, to have it be her son that was the father and not a deceased spouse - in also convolutes the argument to stop Little Jug from being drafted by invalidating not one point but two (widower and eldest son). The story also left the entire issue at 'looking at the dates they matched up'. "Show not tell" might be a guideline not a rule but that was cheap; that specifically and without any pondering forced the reader to the child-narrator's conclusion and left the entire issue even more open-ended, yet the author then is interviewed and admits to the son-is-brothers'-father ending as though it was not left open. (hide spoiler)]

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liza Fireman

    I loved the beginning of this book, it was intruiging, well written and I hoped that this time James McBride will win me over. But exactly like in The Good Lord Bird, he lost me quite quickly. Actually I didn't even know that it is a book of stories. And I am most of the time not a fan of stories. Few make them awesome (I can mention the exceptional Alice Munro for the millionth time), but the most, just don't. I liked the beginning, the first story "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set". A toy I loved the beginning of this book, it was intruiging, well written and I hoped that this time James McBride will win me over. But exactly like in The Good Lord Bird, he lost me quite quickly. Actually I didn't even know that it is a book of stories. And I am most of the time not a fan of stories. Few make them awesome (I can mention the exceptional Alice Munro for the millionth time), but the most, just don't. I liked the beginning, the first story "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set". A toy collector, beautifully explains his profession:Let me explain to you about the worth—and value—of antique toys. I have an art collector friend named Muriel, and we occasionally debate which of our respective trades is more lucrative and important to world history—an argument Muriel almost always wins. But one evening during one of these talks, after consuming a considerable amount of bourbon (which I’d generously supplied), I said: “Muriel, name me one piece of art in the world that is almost beyond wealth in terms of its worth, a piece that captures history’s impact on the present. Name me one.” Muriel sat back thoughtfully, smoking a Gauloise with one hand and holding her glass in the other. “I can think of several,” she said. “The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s David. Various Impressionists. Monet. Van Gogh. Those are priceless. They all import some kind of history to the present.” “But do they have some kind of intrinsic value? One that you can assign money to?” I asked. “I suppose so,” she said. “Aha!” I said, pouncing on her weakness. “Therein lies the difference. Antique toys don’t work that way. Toys are priced based on emotion. The ones in the best condition have the saddest stories. The sadder the story, the more valuable the toy. That is a human element and it’s one that no painting has. The specific history of sorrow or joy in a child’s life, when determining the price, means the sky’s the limit. Because there is no limit to sadness at a child’s suffering, or the happiness a parent feels at a child’s wonder. Thus the emotion contained within the product, when determining the worth of a child’s life, is tied to a child’s innocence, which gives that product infinite value.” So why did McBride lose me? Maybe because all the stories finished abruptly. Maybe because the stories are very uneven. Mixed bag that didn't keep me interested. About 2.5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    The first story was best but predictable. The remaining stories were too depressing for my tastes. 3 of 10 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    3.5 stars When it comes to fiction books, I tend to prefer novels over short story collections, as I like being able to spend a good amount of time getting to know a character(s) and immersing myself into their story. With short stories, especially ones that feature different characters in each story, this becomes a bit of a challenge – it usually takes a bit more effort and concentration on my part to really get into the stories and hopefully connect with the characters. While I would say that o 3.5 stars When it comes to fiction books, I tend to prefer novels over short story collections, as I like being able to spend a good amount of time getting to know a character(s) and immersing myself into their story. With short stories, especially ones that feature different characters in each story, this becomes a bit of a challenge – it usually takes a bit more effort and concentration on my part to really get into the stories and hopefully connect with the characters. While I would say that overall, I liked almost all of the stories in James McBride’s latest short story collection Five-Carat Soul, there were a few that really stood out to me and that I enjoyed reading more than others. My favorites were definitely the first story about the railroad box car set as well as the series of stories about the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band. The author James McBride is a wonderful storyteller and obviously one with heart as well. All of the stories in this collection explored different facets of the human condition in a way that was both fascinating and poignant, with well-timed doses of humor throughout (where appropriate of course). Some of the stories were also fun and imaginative, such as the one where the main characters are zoo animals, with the story narrated primarily by a lion (McBride stated in his Author’s Note that he wrote this particular story after taking his nephews on a trip to the zoo). There was also a pretty significant historical aspect to the stories, as several of them revolve around important figures and/or events from American history, such as the Civil War and General Robert E Lee, Abraham Lincoln and his famous Emancipation Proclamation, World War II military history, etc. -- some of the stories were also spiritual in nature while others were more philosophical and metaphorical. For me though, I enjoyed the “historical” stories the most, as I’m somewhat of a history buff for one, and two, I wasn’t really in the mood for anything too deep or too philosophical at the moment, as I already had a few things going on in my personal life that over-exerted my brain power a bit too much, so in a way, I resented a little having to ponder too deeply with some of the stories. Perhaps if I re-read these stories later on during a different period of my life, I may be able to connect with them a little better. One of the things that sets McBride’s stories apart from other short story collections is his brilliant use of different, distinctive voices for each story. I’ve read short story collections in the past where it was often difficult to distinguish the narrative voice from one story to another and at times, it caused confusion for me. With McBride’s stories, this was never an issue because each of his narrators had a voice that was uniquely their own; not only that -- the writing style was also very different from one story to another, to the point that, at times, it was easy to forget that each story was written by the same author. The one issue I had with this book was that some of the stories ended a bit too abruptly, sometimes right in the middle of a significant thought or idea, it seemed, and so it gave me the feeling that the stories were incomplete or that there was perhaps something I missed. There were a few times where I turned the page expecting to read more but instead it cut to the next story already, which left me feeling a little jilted – not to mention the slight effort in having to shift gears mentally after realizing I would be reading a completely different story. Overall, I liked this short story collection well enough, but didn’t “love” it like I thought I would. Again, it could just be me though, since there are quite a few 4 and 5 star reviews for this collection from other readers, so I suggest checking those out as well. Despite my rating, I would still recommend this collection of stories for its varied and interesting take on different societal issues as well as human behavior. Received advance reader’s copy from Riverhead Books (Penguin Publishing Group) via Edelweiss

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marlene England

    I’m a big fan of James McBride’s writing, so I had high expectations when I dug into the advance copy of FIVE-CARAT SOUL. And I was not disappointed. This is a stellar collection of stories brilliantly told as only McBride can tell them. I enjoyed every page.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I listened to Levar Burton reading this, followed by his chat with the author about the story. Ok. (released a deep breath) Where to begin? The grand majority of this story was SO BEAUTIFULLY EXPRESSED. The words TOOK me to The Bottom. I could see and understand the characters. It was REAL. I had sympathy for all of the characters. There was humor, sadness, it was nothing short of amazing. And then that ending. And then the author's explanation of it. SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT. And ranting too. Fai I listened to Levar Burton reading this, followed by his chat with the author about the story. Ok. (released a deep breath) Where to begin? The grand majority of this story was SO BEAUTIFULLY EXPRESSED. The words TOOK me to The Bottom. I could see and understand the characters. It was REAL. I had sympathy for all of the characters. There was humor, sadness, it was nothing short of amazing. And then that ending. And then the author's explanation of it. SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT. And ranting too. Fair warning. Ok, the SPOILER ending is that the woman had a son by some mystery guy, then had three other sons OFF OF THE FIRST SON, passing him off as HER HUSBAND. And the author and Levar were all like, she has dignity and she's so brave and I'm like WHAT?!? No, she's sick and there is NO excuse for that. Switch the genders if you don't believe me. How "brave" and "dignified" would a man be if he fathered three children off of his oldest daughter? And the whole reason the truth came out was because she didn't want her "oldest" son to go to war in Vietnam. But he wasn't the oldest, he was the second oldest, so yeah, bye-bye to Jr. And during the explanation, the author was all like, "I didn't want to write it like that, but I had no choice." BULLSHIT. YOU ARE THE EFFING AUTHOR!! IT WOULD'T HAVE BEEN WRITTEN THAT WAY IF YOU HADN'T WRITTEN IT THAT WAY!! TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!! Sometimes authors say the characters wrote themselves that way. SCREW THAT HORSE-HOCKEY!! No one had a gun to the author's head and told him to write her that way. Congratulations, you ruined a perfectly amazing story, with humanity and pathos and realism and quality many other authors would practically kill for. (slow handclap) I'm going to go wash my brain with bleach right now. I hope the next Levar Reads is a better pick than this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Magen

    That was a story where I didn't see the ending coming. I'm torn between whether it served the story or was simply for shock value. I don't know how to rate it, so average felt about right. I was hoping the conversation between McBride and Burton at the end of this podcast would clear up why the story went in this direction, but it didn't really. Which is unfortunate.

  15. 5 out of 5

    BookBully

    Following up a National Book Award Winner can't be an easy task for any author. Luckily, James McBride delivers with FIVE-CARAT SOUL, a collection of short stories. Some stand on their own while others are linked. No matter, with possibly one exception (sorry, "The Moaning Bench") these are stories to savor and enjoy. Right out of the gate, I laughed out loud in several spots while reading "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set," the tale of a toy collector and his Great White Whale. The next fou Following up a National Book Award Winner can't be an easy task for any author. Luckily, James McBride delivers with FIVE-CARAT SOUL, a collection of short stories. Some stand on their own while others are linked. No matter, with possibly one exception (sorry, "The Moaning Bench") these are stories to savor and enjoy. Right out of the gate, I laughed out loud in several spots while reading "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set," the tale of a toy collector and his Great White Whale. The next four selections are linked and follow a pre-teen and his group of friends/bandmates as they struggle to grow up in The Bottom, a lower income neighborhood. And the last four stories, under the title of "Mr. P & The Wind," are narrated by a beleaguered lion living inside a zoo. The "Mr. P" of the title arrives in the first selection and changes the lives of each and every captured animal. Fans of THE GOOD LORD BIRD will recognize McBride's sly humor and attention to the tiny details that inform his characters. Recommended for short story lovers, especially fans of Tim Gautreaux and Ron Rash.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chrysten Lofton

    5.0⭐ "Miss McIntyre Said To Tell You, ‘Get Somebody To Read This Who Aint No Relation To You.’" * Mild Spoilers* On this, the bonus installment of Sticher podcast's LeVar Burton Reads, we're gifted with a live reading of Goat by James McBride, followed by a great interview with Burton and McBride. I feel like everything I could surmise about this story was pretty much in that interview, it was a good one. McBride notes that this is a story about a person with a secret, and how they sort of do 5.0⭐ "Miss McIntyre Said To Tell You, ‘Get Somebody To Read This Who Aint No Relation To You.’" * Mild Spoilers* On this, the bonus installment of Sticher podcast's LeVar Burton Reads, we're gifted with a live reading of Goat by James McBride, followed by a great interview with Burton and McBride. I feel like everything I could surmise about this story was pretty much in that interview, it was a good one. McBride notes that this is a story about a person with a secret, and how they sort of do their best with what dignity they have. It’s also a story about a helpful teacher who doesn’t know what sort of trial she’s up against, goes in blind, and comes up shaken. My experience hearing this story was, at first, that I could predict it. At the very least, I was expecting a story about a boy who overcomes the odds to run track and make a way in this world—maybe it was, we were kind of left hanging on that bit. I wondered if it would take a turn for tragedy and tell the story of a family doing their best, only to be squelched by prejudice and circumstance. Maybe it would end in an untimely murder, leaving all of us wondering what could have been. As it turns out, this is a story about how this nosy kid found some crazy shit out one time. That’s it, that’s the whole story. A new friend you make at work or school could tell you this story in an IHOP over pancakes and coffee, and you’d say, “Get the fuck out of here.” and they’d say, “I shit you not.” I’m a fan of stories with weird ass endings, I was here for this. I like secrets and I like gossip. Maybe its the writer in me looking for characters or what lies beneath, but maybe that’s just a lucky excuse. To quote the story, “Most of us has a desire to mind other folk’s business,”. I say observe the drama, but be not of it. But, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t read like a Maury script or anything. This story has a deep wholesomeness to it, and an honesty. And a sadness. It’s human-breathed, and everyone in it is alive and real. This story has a tendency to strike people differently. If you don’t believe me, just skim through the reviews. Even the two star reviews aren’t wrong per se, the story just hit that reader below the belt. Its fair to say that's what the story aims to do—its an uncomfortable, disturbing reveal that leaves the reader staggering, jaw agape, and maybe nauseated. I may have to look into this author some more. Great work. On a personal note, I’m excited to use this story as a token of all the stories read on LeVar Burton Reads by adding it toward my goodreads challenge, amassing about ten hours of prose. That’s it for LeVar Burton Reads 2017, I give this seasons a perfect five stars, and I hope to see you other LBR reviewers on January 16th, 2018—BYDHTTMWFI <3

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A new short story collection from the award winning author James McBride. This collection is interesting in that two of the stories stretch over five short chapters. The balance of the book contains standalone stories. The writing is always engaging, inviting and creative with a prose that is artistic. The book starts off with the Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set, a legendary railroad toy set supposedly commissioned by confederate general Robert E. Lee for his son and it was the only one made. A new short story collection from the award winning author James McBride. This collection is interesting in that two of the stories stretch over five short chapters. The balance of the book contains standalone stories. The writing is always engaging, inviting and creative with a prose that is artistic. The book starts off with the Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set, a legendary railroad toy set supposedly commissioned by confederate general Robert E. Lee for his son and it was the only one made. It somehow ends up in Queens, NY on top of a refrigerator in the house of a very disinterested Reverend Hart. This story is narrated in the first person by the Jewish toy dealer Leo Banskoff. This is a great choice to open the collection because it is a hoot. Written with humor, intrigue and mystery, will encourage the reader to want more. And James McBride delivers ever more with the four chapter Five Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band, a group of teens from the Bottom who form a band but rarely ever have gigs and we get a uproarious sendup of the various members lives and situations that could only exist in a place like the Bottom. There is a five chapter story, Mr. P & the Wind that uses animals in a zoo as the narrators, the first thought is 'oh come on' but McBride makes it work somehow and manages to make you reflect on the possibilities of animal communication. A sure fire bestseller because these stories explore the human, animal, the spirit, heaven, hell and history with a storyteller's fine flair.And the ordering of the stories are just right, starting solid and finishing strong. Do enjoy. Thanks to edelweiss for providing an advanced ecopy in exchange for a fair and honest review. Book publishes Sept. 26, 2017.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Danny Cerullo

    James McBride is an author who wears his heart on his sleeve and that is an amazingly refreshing thing in a literary scene full of writers trying to out cynic each other. Five-Carat Soul is a collection of fairly simple stories with a ton of heart.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Gant

    Basically, I've realized that I'm woefully behind in my 2017 reading challenge. So now I'm adding every short story I've had to read this year for school. "Goat" is a good descriptive story. It's a riveting story with a disturbing twist at the end. I wouldn't recommend it. I think James McBride is a good author as far as modern authors go; however, I suppose the ending disturbed me enough to not rate this story any greater than 2 stars. McBride wants to disturb us and make us think. He successfu Basically, I've realized that I'm woefully behind in my 2017 reading challenge. So now I'm adding every short story I've had to read this year for school. "Goat" is a good descriptive story. It's a riveting story with a disturbing twist at the end. I wouldn't recommend it. I think James McBride is a good author as far as modern authors go; however, I suppose the ending disturbed me enough to not rate this story any greater than 2 stars. McBride wants to disturb us and make us think. He successfully did that for me. Anywho. Not my favorite story due to the plunge from lightheartedness to the sudden, awful reveal at the end. But good writing to achieve that powerful impact.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Demi

    My book club picks some incredible books. This collection of short stories is marvelous—poignant and unexpected, culminating in a fable that left me feeling heartbroken and hopeful at once.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicoleen

    This is an amazing collection of stories. I especially appreciated the range of narration and vantage point in each story. Each one had a deep message, but often conveyed in a purely humanistic way. While I had the hardest time connecting with the final story, the pay-off was definitely worth it. A great read overall, 4.5 stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Grace Sanchez

    I don’t usually read short stories as a genre but I was thoroughly immersed in every story in this book. I especially loved Mr. P & the Wind. The author’s imagery, sense of place and voice are so enjoyable in this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    4.5 Some of the most poignant, insightful and unpredictable stories I have ever read; I enjoyed each and everyone one of them. James McBride has an unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. I listened to this book on audio and the narrations were top notch.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary Moreau

    I don’t recall ever actually resorting to this description before, but the word “yarn” lingered in my thoughts continuously as I read this collection of diverse short stories. And even that doesn’t do them justice. They don’t so much have a beginning and an end in the sense that stories normally do. They are a launch pad for thought without deliberately promoting any particular intellectual or political agenda. It’s entertainment for thought at its best. McBride is a master storyteller. The prose I don’t recall ever actually resorting to this description before, but the word “yarn” lingered in my thoughts continuously as I read this collection of diverse short stories. And even that doesn’t do them justice. They don’t so much have a beginning and an end in the sense that stories normally do. They are a launch pad for thought without deliberately promoting any particular intellectual or political agenda. It’s entertainment for thought at its best. McBride is a master storyteller. The prose is colorful and flows quickly. I was turning the pages so quickly I felt compelled to check the size of the font to understand why. It was the prose, however, not the font, that ultimately enticed me to gallop through the pages. Like most readers will be inclined to do, I searched for a common denominator to each of the stories. And there are a few. There is a history of color that runs throughout, for example. In the end, however, I think that the message of this book is like the wind itself, blowing both through your hair and everywhere around you all at the same time, refusing to be channeled or characterized. And that is what makes the wind and this book so liberating. One of the stories takes place in an area of Uniontown, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, known as The Bottom. A teacher of one of the more athletic local boys goes to his home to talk to his mother. “Are you Seymour’s mother?” Miss McIntyre asked. “If you mean is I the someone who teaches him not to brush his teeth and clean his nose out in public, yes, I am his mother,” Mrs. Shays said. “But if you from social services and come out here fending and providing and pretending you know everything, which must be a terrible strain on a person, then I ain’t nobody.” To the inevitable follow up, she says, “If it look like buzzard and smell like buzzard, miss, in ain’t catfish.” In one story involving The Gatekeeper to you-know-where, one particularly recalcitrant and feisty boxer, unmistakably modeled after Mohammed Ali says, “Take that robe off and fight, you devil you. Pull that hood off. Lordy, that mug of yours must look bad as a snake bite. You so ugly you keep your eyes closed when you kiss your wife—so you won’t see her suffer.” I normally reserve a 5 rating for books that are truly transformative. And that is a very high standard for fiction to achieve. This book clears that bar, however, not because it will transform your thinking so much as it will simply transform the time you spend reading it. It’s a true delight without ever begging to be delightful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marcos

    What a beautiful book! I cannot recommend Five Carat Soul enough to all my friends that love a good story, a good cry, and a sense of optimism that is missing even from some of the best novels out there. Think of Mark Twain, O'Henry, and Ernest Gaines getting together for a drink, and riffing on heartbreak, steeped in the coming of age blues. I cannot recommend these stories enough: "Goat", a beautifully rendered story of a young man in love with his beautiful teacher, the pangs of first love an What a beautiful book! I cannot recommend Five Carat Soul enough to all my friends that love a good story, a good cry, and a sense of optimism that is missing even from some of the best novels out there. Think of Mark Twain, O'Henry, and Ernest Gaines getting together for a drink, and riffing on heartbreak, steeped in the coming of age blues. I cannot recommend these stories enough: "Goat", a beautifully rendered story of a young man in love with his beautiful teacher, the pangs of first love and a first crush that parallels with Goat- a poor boy from a community called The Bottom (a riff on Toni Morrison's Sula) who is an untapped track star without a birth certificate. This may be one of the loveliest stories about first love, and a boy's appreciation for his teacher I've ever read. "The Christmas Dance" is the joyful story of Herb, a PhD student on a mission to research the story of the 92nd Brigade of World War 2, and the curmudgeonly and reluctant Judge who is hesitant to tell his side of the story. It's also the story of Carlos, a lonely Puerto Rican man who loves to dance, of how Herb learns that a good story takes time and patience. And it's gorgeously hilarious and bittersweet ending with a mysterious woman named Lillian connects all the dots that makes this story the collection's gem. Mr P and the Wind is a hilarious novella in the point of view of a lion captured from Africa and aging at the Bronx Zoo. Humane and riffing on the blues and sorrow of being degraded and beaten down, it's still a magical story of resilience and strength. The Color of Water may be James McBride's most famous book, The Good Lord Bird may be his most honored- but this gem of short stories is his loveliest and most human.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I fell in love with McBride’s fiction while reading his National Book Award-winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, his tale about the zealot John Brown. This collection of short stories with their humor and humanity are gems in McBride’s distinctive style. There is the story regarding the Five Carat Soul garage funk band and a novella about a lion’s life in a zoo. There is the heartwarming story of the ‘The Christmas Dance’ about a young man seeking the oral history from black veterans of the Italia I fell in love with McBride’s fiction while reading his National Book Award-winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, his tale about the zealot John Brown. This collection of short stories with their humor and humanity are gems in McBride’s distinctive style. There is the story regarding the Five Carat Soul garage funk band and a novella about a lion’s life in a zoo. There is the heartwarming story of the ‘The Christmas Dance’ about a young man seeking the oral history from black veterans of the Italian campaign in WWII. And there is ‘The Moaning Bench’ about a boxer who must fight the devil’s gatekeeper for his soul. Highly recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vani

    Let me start with the ending... I.did.not.see.it.COMING. That reveal...phew! For me, this story is so familiar. It describes a lot of the stories I've heard about people living in poverty and the lack of opportunities to succeed in life. Sadly, even when there are opportunities, people's apathy combined with a lack of education keeps them in the cycle of poverty, generation after generation. This tale does what the best short stories do - leave you with more questions than answers at the end.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    Clearly I'm going to have to change my opinion about short stories... because I really liked the whole collection in James McBride's upcoming (September) book. The voices in the stories are varied and unexpected - a Jewish antique toy salesman, five impoverished young boys, Abe Lincoln and his young son's ghost, a bunch of animals at a zoo, a soldier from WWII. Some of the stories are singles and some have several chapters. Some are almost spiritual in nature. All are very human. McBride is a gi Clearly I'm going to have to change my opinion about short stories... because I really liked the whole collection in James McBride's upcoming (September) book. The voices in the stories are varied and unexpected - a Jewish antique toy salesman, five impoverished young boys, Abe Lincoln and his young son's ghost, a bunch of animals at a zoo, a soldier from WWII. Some of the stories are singles and some have several chapters. Some are almost spiritual in nature. All are very human. McBride is a gifted teller of tales.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Entertaining as all get out. McBride is a master of voice. My favorite story in this collection has to be the one narrated by a lion (named Get Along, Go Along) caged in a zoo. How does he get this to work? But somehow he does. Like all story collections, some are better than others, but the ones that work best shine. Enjoyable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Nope for the plottwist.

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