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The Good Lord Birdby James McBride
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade — and who must pass as a girl to survive.
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town — with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.
Over the ensuing months, Henry — whom Brown nicknames Little Onion — conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 — one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.
An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
“Outrageously funny, sad…McBride puts a human face on a nation at its most divided.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A magnificent new novel by the best-selling author James McBride...a brilliant romp of a novel....McBride — with the same flair for historical mining, musicality of voice and outsize characterization that made his memoir, The Color of Water, an instant classic — pulls off his portrait masterfully, like a modern-day Mark Twain: evoking sheer glee with every page." The New York Times Book Review
"You may know the story of John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, but author James McBride's retelling of the events leading up to it is so imaginative, you'll race to the finish." NPR
"A boisterous, highly entertaining, altogether original novel by James McBride....There is something deeply humane in this [story], something akin to the work of Homer or Mark Twain. McBride's Little Onion — a sparkling narrator who is sure to win new life on the silver screen — leads us through history's dark corridors, suggesting that 'truths' may actually lie elsewhere." The Washington Post
"Absorbing and darkly funny." The San Francisco Chronicle
"A sizzling historical novel that is an evocative escapade and a provocative pastiche of Larry McMurtry's salty western satires and William Styron's seminal insurrection masterpiece, The Confessions of Nat Turner." Booklist (starred review)
"McBride delivers another tour de force....A fascinating mix of history and mystery." Essence
"A superbly written novel....McBride...transcends history and makes it come alive." The Chicago Tribune
"An irrepressibly fun read." The Seattle Times
"A story that's difficult to put down." Ebony
"Both breezy and sharp, a rare combination outside of Twain. You should absolutely read it." Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine
"As in Huck Finn, this novel comes in through the back door of history, telling you something you might not know by putting you in the heat of the action....It is a compelling story and an important one, told in a voice that is fresh and apolitical." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Exhilarating....McBride makes what could be a confusing tale clear and creates suspense even in a story whose end is well-known. Beneath the humor lies sympathy for Brown and all those whose lives were caught up with his." Columbus Dispatch
About the Author
James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the American classic The Color of Water and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was turned into a film by Spike Lee. A graduate of Oberlin College, he has a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. McBride holds several honorary doctorates and is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
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