Synopses & Reviews
Told in alternating perspectives by a varied and vocal cast of characters, Nussbaum pulls back the curtain to reveal the complicated and funny and tough life inside the walls of an institution for juveniles with disabilities. From Yessenia Lopez, who dreams of her next boyfriend and of one day of living outside those walls, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, to Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us. In this isolated human warehouse on Chicagos South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. And its in their alliances that the residents ultimately find the strength to bond together and finally fight back against their mistreatment.
Told with humor and authenticity in voices that stay with you long past the last page, Good Kings, Bad Kings is at once strikingly original, baldly funny, and profoundly moving.
“This is fiction at its best. The story’s sharp eye allows no one to take shelter, and it doesn’t flinch, it is simply and breathtakingly honest. A stunning accomplishment.”
—Barbara Kingsolver Barbara Kingsolver
“Nussbaum charms, outrages, and enlightens readers as she cycles among . . . characters, boldly contrasting the transcendence of love with the harsh realities of a negligent for-profit nursing home. This is unquestionably an authentic, galvanizing, and righteous novel.”
—Booklist [HC starred review] Booklist
“A wonderful vehicle for audio, with engaging, heartrending performances by a talented cast of actors. . . . Enlightening listening.”
—AudioFile Wisconsin Bookwatch
“A compelling and authentic vision of life in facilities for the disabled. . . . Mature young adults will appreciate the journey of these strong young people.”
—Library Journal Sound Commentary
“Nussbaum wonderfully sweetens a stark subject with doses of idiosyncratic humor and hard-earned pathos. . . . [She] upholds the individuality and integrity of her characters, never stooping to saccharine clichés or Hollywood manipulation. . . . [A] moving story.”
“The full-cast production features the vocal talents of seven exceptional readers. . . . Expect both the book and audio to make year-end best lists.”
—Booklist [starred review] The Washington Post
“Vividly brought to life by a cast of seven talented performers.”
“Good King, Bad Kings has seven narrators who bring their situations to life. Each narrator was carefully selected for his/her skillful, emotional portrayal of the individual’s personality.”
Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, this powerful and inspiring debut will, in the words of Barbara Kingsolver, make you “laugh, over and over again, and cry, and cheer” as it transforms how you think about what it means to be disabled.
About the Author
Susan Nussbaum’s plays have been widely produced. Her play Mishuganismo is included in the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. In 2008 she was cited by the Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” for her work with girls with disabilities. This is her first novel.