Monday, January 13, 2014

The Good Lord Bird

Plan. I did not expect to laugh as much as I did while reading historical fiction about John Brown and his raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal to free slaves. While the abolitionist movement was serious business, thanks to James McBride and his finely written novel, The Good Lord Bird, readers can see this time period from a different point of view than most history books. John Brown has a plan, and McBride riffs on how that implausible plan failed on so many levels, yet came very close to succeeding. Using the point of view of a young black boy, Henry, McBride takes us inside Brown’s world, including contact with Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas. On one level, this is Henry’s coming of age story as he recalls in old age this time in his life and in the history of slavery. Brown’s version of reality is often separate from that of others, including how he thinks Henry is female, and renames her from the Henrietta he thought to his “Little Onion.” Henry dresses as a girl for the bulk of the novel, and whenever he is recognized as a male, the humor quotient in the novel became elevated. The lively prose from McBride in this novel entertained me to the point that I reread some of the finest dialect he writes. Any reader of this novel will think of John Brown in new ways, and with a smile. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Good Lord Bird from

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