Compelling and Topical

Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (2021. Dutton. ISBN 978-0-593-33096-8)

Race. America. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbury. A book tour. A manic depressive (or just plain crazy), boozing-to-a-coma Black author. It’s all here in this tidy little volume. Except, when talking or writing about race in this nation, at this time, nothing is tidy. Ever.

If you are looking for a concise, fictional reflection on race that offers simple suggestions to cure what ails America in our Post-Obama, Post-Trump reality, this book is not for you. Nope. The author posits no real solutions to the generational trauma and heartache that befalls young Black men in this country. That’s not on the agenda, not in the novel, nor in the story within the story, the tale of the book’s unnamed protagonist who’s bestselling novel about his dead mother is also titled Hell of a Book. Clever, eh? Such a contrite, simplistic device might ring hollow and shallow and forced if not for Mott’s skill in making us all, especially white dudes and dudettes reading and acclaiming his storytelling, look just a tad foolish in our praise. I mean, yah, the book is good. Maybe even great. But what does that change, right? I mean, Kim Potter just faced sentencing in another case of white cop/dead Black guy gone wrong. The story never seems to alter or fade or evolve to a point where we can all, Black, white, poor, rich, male, and female consider whatever happens after tragedy “fair”.

So yes, it’s a hell of a book. But you won’t find bejeweled answers to society’s questions strewn about this tale like philosophical gems. And I’ll confess that I’m not drawn to endings lacking grace, redemption, equity, or finality. This story is just that way, which is likely why I didn’t rate Mott’s effort worthy of five stars. That said, maybe the problem is mine and not the author’s.

4 and 1/2 star out of 5.



About Mark

I'm a reformed lawyer and author.
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