Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

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“A master of switching genres, from heartrending Pulitzer-winning lit fic to satire to hilarious coming-of-age, Whitehead delivers on this rollicking, old school crime/heist novel.

This is a book with verve. It feels like you’ve been shoved in a time capsule, whisked to late-50s/60s Harlem, and have somehow found yourself amidst an ever-evolving group of mobsters and fencers and a slew of men who exist somewhere between entirely-crooked and the straight-and-narrow. It’s offbeat and illuminating and wildly entertaining.”

<3Miranda

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…”

To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably-priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home. Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger and bigger all the time.

See, cash is tight, especially with all those installment plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace at the furniture store, Ray doesn’t see the need to ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who also doesn’t ask questions. Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa – the “Waldorf of Harlem” – and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do, after all. Now Ray has to cater to a new clientele, one made up of shady cops on the take, vicious minions of the local crime lord, and numerous other Harlem lowlifes. Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he starts to see the truth about who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
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