I already posted these reviews on Goodreads. If y’all’re interested in reading either of the synopses, click the linked title below the image of the book’s cover. And if you’ve read either of these books, I’d love to hear what you think in my Comments section. You know, way down yonder at the bottom.
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King, audiobook read by Peter Francis James. I rated it 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it”, on Goodreads and shelved it there as American, biography, educational, history, injustice, nonfiction, public institutions, racial-ethnic issues, social issues, & Southern.
Damn, this is a good book. Shocking and often difficult to listen to, but powerful, moving, and inspiring.
I knew, of course, that Thurgood Marshall was the first black American Supreme Court Justice, but I had no idea how long, hard, and effectively he worked as the head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, and at such tremendous, perennial personal risk. The man may not’ve lived a particularly saintly personal life, but clearly his professional legacy is as important to the success of the Civil Rights movement as Martin Luther King’s and other prominent warriors for racial justice. I enjoyed learning about the 1946 race riot in Columbia, TN, not too far from home, and Marshall’s role, along with Nashville Civil Rights attorney and hero Zephania Alexander Looby, in defending the alleged perpetrators.
I’m also aware of the history of lynching in the American South, but again, I had no freakin’ idea how common it was throughout the region and how horrifically the victims were abused before being killed. I had no clue how prevalent and politically powerful the KKK was for so long and throughout so much of the country, continuing well into the 60s and even the 1970s. Listening to the repeated stories of such bigotry, hatred, and racial injustice repeatedly brought me to tears and made me embarrassed for the behavior of previous generations of white Americans.
Peter Francis James has a wonderful voice and is a fine narrator, and Gilbert King does a great job of telling several important stories in Devil in the Grove. His journalistic excellence and lucid style remind me very much of Jon Krakauer’s work in Under the Banner of Heaven and Missoula or Lawrence Wright’s in Going Clear, all of which are compelling reads and good for listening to on long commutes. You better believe I’ll be looking for more of King’s work.
Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel. I rated it 2 of 5 stars, “it was o.k.”, on Goodreads and shelved it there as fiction, novel, sci-fi, & series.
I was browsing the shelves at a local branch of my awesome Nashville Public Library a few months ago looking for something interesting to read and chose Sleeping Giants as one of my selections because it sounded edgy and interesting, and the back-flap author bio made Sylvain Neuvel sound really cool. He may very well be, but his first book was underwhelming.
Neuvel chose to tell his story as a version of the epistolary novel, revealing it piece by piece in a series of journal entries, professional logs, and official reports. For the duration of the novel, I was always conscious of being told what had happened, never shown. Now I don’t fully subscribe to the dictum that it’s always better to show more than to tell; I recently read a very enjoyable book (Michael Perry’s The Jesus Cow) that had more telling than showing. But in Sleeping Giants‘s case, it’s not such a good thing. The story would’ve been faster-paced, more entertaining, and the characters much more sympathetic and relatable, if I’d been able to see what’d been happening rather than simply reading filtered reports of what’d been done.
The book also has a serious deus ex machina problem. I can’t go into detail here without plot spoilers, but it appears there are three ‘gods’ acting as puppet masters; the shadowy, sinister interviewer/investigator who writes many of the reports; the even more mysterious agency he represents; and quite possibly the alien (or at least vastly superior) race that left pieces of giant robots scattered all across the globe thousands of years in the past, so it’s difficult to determine when (or even if) the characters we encounter are acting under their own agency, which makes it almost impossible to judge their motives hence to know how to feel about them.
I struggled to stay interested in Sleeping Giants and had to force myself to finish it. I doubt I could ever be convinced to read the remaining books in the series. If, like me, you enjoy complex, relatable characters and a character-driven story, Sleeping Giants isn’t for you.
Have y’all read Devil in the Grove or Sleeping Giants? If so, I’d love to see what you have to say about them in my Comments section below.
Take care, be well, and happy blogging!