Welcome to Braggsville

Morrow. Feb. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780062302120. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062302144. F
When Braggsville, GA, resident Daron Davenport goes to college in Berkeley, CA, he might as well have gone to another country, so foreign does he feel. However, he's made to feel at home by some students he befriends at a party: Caucasian Candice, who claims Native American blood; Louis, a Malaysian comedian; and Charlie, a gay African American. Inspired by one of their classes, the friends decide to spend their spring break in Daron's hometown, where the annual reenactment of the Civil War will allow them to stage a "performative intervention"—meaning, in this case, a lynching. This scheme has "Bad Idea" written all over it, and the resulting melee reverberates for years to come.
VERDICT Johnson's (Hold It 'Til It Hurts) observations about race are both piercing and witty, making this edgy novel so much more complex than a send-up of the South and liberal academe. Johnson is at his best when he's the most straightforward; chapters that take off in stream-of-consciousness Southern dialect unnecessarily confuse the story. But those with a love for linguistic romps will want to take on this literary dark comedy. [See Prepub Alert, 8/11/14.]
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