A New York Times Notable Book for 1998
Synopses & Reviews
In 1998, Richard Price returned to the gritty urban landscape of his national bestseller Clockers
to produce Freedomland
, a searing and unforgettable novel about a hijacked car, a missing child, and an embattled neighborhood polarized by racism, distrust, and accusation. Freedomland
hit bestseller lists from coast to coast, including those of the Boston Globe, USA Today
, and Los Angeles Times
; garnered universally rave reviews; and was selected as the Grand Prize Winner of the Imus American Book Award and as a New York Times
A white woman, her hands gashed and bloody, stumbles into an inner-city emergency room and announces that she has just been carjacked by a black man. But then comes the horrifying twist: Her young son was asleep in the back seat, and he has now disappeared into the night.
So begins Richard Price's electrifying novel, a tale set on the same turf -- Dempsey, New Jersey -- as Clockers. Assigned to investigate the case of Brenda Martin's missing child is detective Lorenzo Council, a local son of the very housing project targeted as the scene of the crime. Under a white-hot media glare, Lorenzo launches an all-out search for the abducted boy, even as he quietly explores a different possibility: Does Brenda Martin know a lot more about her son's disappearance than she's admitting?
Right behind Lorenzo is Jesse Haus, an ambitious young reporter from the city's evening paper. Almost immediately, Jesse suspects Brenda of hiding something. Relentlessly, she works her way into the distraught mother's fragile world, befriending her even as she looks for the chance to break the biggest story of her career.
As the search for the alleged carjacker intensifies, so does the simmering racial tension between Dempsey and its mostly white neighbor, Gannon. And when the Gannon police arrest a black man from Dempsey and declare him a suspect, the animosity between the two cities threatens to boil over into violence. With the media swarming and the mood turning increasingly ugly, Lorenzo must take desperate measures to get to the bottom of Brenda Martin's story.
At once a suspenseful mystery and a brilliant portrait of two cities locked in a death-grip of explosive rage, Freedomland reveals the heart of the urban American experience -- dislocated, furious, yearning -- as never before. Richard Price has created a vibrant, gut-wrenching masterpiece whose images will remain long after the final, devastating pages.
"For all its grabby suspense and startling disclosures, Freedomland is infinitely more than a detective story. Despite its hipness, its up-to-the-moment street jive and cops-and-robbers jargon, it aspires to the heft and weight of a 19th-century Russian classic." Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review
"The novel is both generously plotted and honestly attentive to the screwed-up lives of these marvelously realized people....A book that Raymond Chandler or James T. Farrell would have been proud to claim." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] thriller in which plot grows inevitably from place, and place seems utterly real." Time Magazine
"Engrossing and memorable, Freedomland is also, be warned, a psychically draining work of fiction. And while Price's vision of race relations in America may not be heartening or hopeful, it's undeniably an unflinching one. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"A big, cinemascope thriller...a novel that transforms today's headlines into a forceful, harrowing drama....[A] terrific read...Price has written his most powerful novel yet." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Price snares the surface and the substance of America caught in a slow-motion riot of racial rage. His language is street-fresh, his dialogue as if eavesdropped; his characters are soulful, flawed, dead real." Publishers Weekly
"Price hits another home run....Price's characters are, as usual, dead-on, and his eye for unflinchingly capturing humans at their very best and very worst is unrivaled. Highly recommended." Library Journal
Dazed and bleeding, Brenda Martin stumbles into a city hospital and tells an astonishing story: first about the black man who hijacked her car. Then about her young son, who was asleep in the back seat. As the nation watches spellbound, frantic police descend on the housing projects, searching for a stolen child, tearing apart a neighborhood that doesn't need an excuse to explode. An edgy young reporter hustles her way into the eye of the storm. A good cop stands at an impossible spot. And soon all the pain, hope, and madness of a heat-soaked city will come pouring out into the streets-because of a story that may be true, or may be the most horrifying lie of all. . . .
Richard Price returns to the gritty urban landscape of his New York Times bestseller CLOCKSERS in a vibrant, gut-wrenching masterpiece of suspense -- a novel that is as timely as recent headlines and as universal as our own worst nightmares.
About the Author
Richard Price is the author of five previous novels; the most recent, Clockers, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also written numerous screenplays, including Sea of Love, Ransom, and The Color of Money, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. His work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times and Esquire, and he has taught fiction writing at Yale, NYU, and Columbia. He and his family live in Manhattan.