FICTION

Three-Fifths

Agora. Sept. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781947993679. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781947993822. F
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DEBUT Bobby Saraceno was 11 when he discovered his father was black. Reeling from the revelation—his racist white grandfather trained Bobby to hate people of color—he vowed to keep that part of his heritage a secret. His best friend Aaron imitated the African American kids in their Pittsburgh neighborhood, but when he went to prison for dealing drugs, Aaron learned to hate people of color after being assaulted. Now freed in 1995, Aaron is part of the Neo-Nazi movement. When a black kid taunts Bobby and Aaron at a local hangout, Aaron retaliates by beating the teen with a brick while Bobby watches. Guilt-stricken because he drove the getaway car, Bobby faces a dilemma: report his childhood friend or stay silent about the hate crime. When Bobby’s alcoholic mother, Isabel, reconnects with the father he always thought was dead, she makes a plan to introduce him into Bobby’s life. Becoming sober and giving Bobby a father to guide him could change the trajectory of their lives, but she might be too late.
VERDICT Vercher deftly explores identity and the ethics of accountability in this debut. Fans of realistic social issue narratives will be immersed in the moral dilemmas of this timely novel

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