Winner of the 2016 Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
captive by her employers — and by her own demons — on a mysterious farm, a
widow struggles to reunite with her young son in this uniquely American
story of freedom, perseverance, and survival.
an exemplary wife and a loving mother to her young son, Eddie, finds
herself devastated by the unforeseen death of her husband. Unable to
cope with her grief, she turns to drugs, and quickly forms an addiction.
One day she disappears without a trace.
eleven-year-old Eddie, now left behind in a panic-stricken search for
her, Darlene has been lured away with false promises of a good job and a
rosy life. A shady company named Delicious Foods shuttles her to a
remote farm, where she is held captive, performing hard labor in the
fields to pay off the supposed debt for her food, lodging, and the
constant stream of drugs the farm provides to her and the other
unfortunates imprisoned there.
In Delicious Foods, James Hannaham
tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother,
her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. Through Darlene's
haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, through the efforts of both to
triumph over those who would enslave them, and through the irreverent
and mischievous voice of the drug that narrates Darlene's travails,
Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose infuses this harrowing
experience with grace and humor.
The desperate circumstances that
test the unshakeable bond between this mother and son unfold into myth,
and Hannaham's treatment of their ordeal spills over with compassion.
Along the way we experience a tale at once contemporary and historical
that wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom, forgiveness
and redemption, tenacity and the will to survive.
"If The Great Gatsby was the Great American Novel of the twentieth century, Delicious Foods could be that of the early twenty-first. If the plot sounds like tough going, Hannaham's masterpiece is anything but. The writing makes it 'great,' and the themes of pain, forgiveness, exploitation, and self creation make it American. It is simply unmissable."
Booklist (starred review)
"A Southern farm provides the backdrop for a modern-day slavery tale in this textured, inventive and provocatively funny novel... A poised and nervy study of race in a unique voice." Kirkus (starred review)
"A writer of major importance... Moments of deft lyricism are Hannaham's greatest strength, and those touches of beauty and intuitive metaphor make the novel's difficult subject matter easier to bear... The novel's finest moments are... in the singular way that Hannaham can make the commonplace spring to life with nothing more than astute observations and precise language." New York Times Book Review
"[A] sensational new novel about the tenacity of racism and its bizarre permutations... bounce[s] off the page with the sharpest, wittiest, most unsettling cultural criticism I've read in years... Hannaham is a propulsive storyteller... the whole story speeds through the dark... never takes its foot off the gas... An archetypal tale of American struggle... Reminiscent of Edward P. Jones's The Known World...[A] fantastically creative performance... [An] insightful and ultimately tender novel... You will devour this book." Ron Charles, Washington Post
"Harrowing... Hannaham details a cycle of despair and enslavement in the poverty-ridden South... What emerges is the powerful tale of a place whose past is 'a ditch so deep with bodies it could pass for a starless night.'" The New Yorker
About the Author
James Hannaham is the author of the novel God Says No, which was honored by the American Library Association. He
holds an MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas at
Austin, and lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches creative writing at the