Doubleday. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780385550369. $28. F
The rules of engagement for Black people encountering white people are brutally clear in 1830s Missouri, a state with enslavement. Don’t ever make a white person think you know something he doesn’t, or you’ll pay. In this virtuoso reworking of Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it’s the enslaved Jim who tells the tale. Heard from Jim’s perspective, events look different than they did to Huck, because Jim is living inside a mask: deliberately hiding who and what he is and whatever aspirations he may have. For example, with his wife and family, Jim speaks clearly, even as he teaches his children to only mumble around white people, in order to give them what they like, a moment of correction. As in Twain’s original, the action is fast and furious. The characters grab readers’ attention and, with Jim and Huck, their hearts too. A twist near the end of the tale changes the nature of Huck and Jim’s relationship dramatically.
VERDICT Everett (English, Univ. of Southern California), author of The Trees and Erasure, has written an even richer and penetrating Adventures than Twain’s already rich masterpiece. It will fly off library shelves.
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