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The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store (2023)

av James McBride

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,750909,942 (4.12)108
"In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe's theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe. As these characters' stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town's white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community--heaven and earth--that sustain us."--… (mer)
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I read this book in audiobook format.

This novel is about a mixed race community (Black, Jewish, White) in the 1920s-30s. There is a large, lively, and sometimes confusing cast of characters that get into all kinds of predicaments. Ultimately they must work together to solve their problems and get closer to the American Dream. Mildly humorous but with some dark parts too, the novel is uplifting but hints at an American future full of violence. I liked the book a lot but did find it difficult to follow in parts. The ending was very satisfying. I think I like Deacon King Kong better, which is a similar novel by McBride. ( )
  technodiabla | May 26, 2024 |
James McBride has used the lessons he learned from both his parents to write this book. His father was an African-American preacher and his mother was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. This book, which is centered in a poor neighbourhood called Chicken Hill in Pennsylvania, starts with the lives of Jewish refugees who settled in Chicken Hill with blacks as neighbours. The time period is the 1920s and racism by whites against both Jews and blacks was not even hidden. The town doctor, who had a distinguishing limp, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and paraded in the white outfit around town every summer.

Actually, the book starts with the discovery of bones in an old well in Chicken Hill later in the twentieth century. A pendant and a mezuzah found with the bones cause the police to question one of the remaining Jews left in town. This necessitates returning to the past to become acquainted with a Jewish couple, Moshe and Chona, who owned and lived above The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store. Chona ran the store while Moshe operated several theatres. Chona ran the store at a loss in order to provide a place for the local people to shop. She was a woman with a big heart even though she had a disability. She was also outspoken about the racism in town. One of Moshe's employees, Nate, asks Moshe and Chona to hide his nephew, Dodo, a deaf orphan that state officials want to put into a state institution. Dodo wasn't born deaf, it was caused by an explosion in a kitchen. Maybe that's why Dodo is able to understand what people are saying and why he is quick to learn things. Nevertheless, he is eventually caught and taken to the institution where he becomes friends with another disabled boy. In the institution, Dodo comes to the attention of a night orderly who has carnal desires for him. Nate is determined to get him out of the institution but it is not an easy task. Will Dodo be permanently scarred by this incarceration even if Nate does get him out? Well, read the book to find out this and much much more including who the body in the well was.

I listened to the audio of this book and I loved the narrator, Dominic Hoffman. Because of the wealth of detail in this book it might have been better to read it but the narration added something that just reading would lack. ( )
  gypsysmom | May 20, 2024 |
While I had a few quibbles with this novel, I enjoyed it overall. I loved the story of Chicken Hill and its Jewish and Black residents. The hub of the community is Chona, a Jewish woman, who inspires both groups with her principled stands and courage in the face of bigotry.

I had this book on my TBR and was happy to get to it sooner, thanks to the impetus of my new book group. We had a really good discussion about it, and one comment helped me appreciate the novel even more. In an interview, McBride apparently spoke of the book as being similar to jazz - with one player (character) taking center stage and then moving aside for another one, but the entire group forming a coherent whole to tell a story.

4 stars ( )
  katiekrug | May 20, 2024 |
Book on CD read by Dominic Hoffman

McBride begins this work of historical fiction in 1972, when skeletal remains are discovered at the bottom of a dry well by a construction crew. From there the story goes back to the early 20th century and the thriving community of Chicken Hill in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where immigrant Jews who originally settled the area are moving out as the African Americans move in. But Moshe and Chona, who run the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store and live in the apartment above the business, refuse to leave. They continue to serve the African-American community and are comfortable with their neighbors.

The crux of the story revolves around Dodo, an African-American orphan who is deaf (as the result of the gas stove in his residence exploding), and whom the state wishes to consign to the notorious Pennhurst Asylum. The efforts of Dodo’s aunt and uncle, Addie and Nate, and of Moshe and Chona, to keep Dodo away from that hellish environment is the basic plot.

But the novel is less plot-driven than character-driven. McBride paints a colorful and intricate landscape, of two equally strong cultures co-existing because of the strength of character of their leaders. They rely on and support one another. They show compassion and empathy and love. And, yes, anger and disdain as well. There were times when I wanted McBride to “get on with it.” But I was invested in all these characters, even the unlikeable ones. I recognized that I needed to know all of them to understand the dynamics of Chicken Hill. At its heart, this is a story of community, cooperation, tolerance and respect.

The hardest section to stomach was the part set at Pennhurst. My heart broke for Monkey Pants, and I wanted to throttle Son of Man (and the administrators who allowed him to prey on the helpless).

Readers should definitely read the acknowledgement section at the end, where McBride tells of the real-life heroes and mentors who inspired this work of fiction.

Dominic Hoffman does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. He has a lot of characters to deal with, but he is up for the task. I was rarely confused about who was speaking (and when I was, it was MY fault, for not paying attention). ( )
  BookConcierge | May 19, 2024 |
Masterful. Multigenerational. Insightful. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | May 14, 2024 |
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There was an old Jew who lived at the site of the old synagogue up on Chicken Hill in the town of Pottstown, Pa., and when Pennsylvania State Troopers found the skeleton at the bottom of an old well off Hayes Street, the old Jew's house was the first place they went to.
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The old man shrugged. Jewish life is portable, he said. (p. 3)
The Negroes of Chicken Hill loved Chona. They saw her not as a neighbor but as an artery to freedom, for the recollection of Chona's telltale limp as she and her childhood friend, a tall, gorgeous, silent soul named Bernice Davis, walked down the pitted mud roads of the Hill to school each morning was stamped in their collective memory. It was proof of the American possibility of equality: we all can get along no matter what, look at those two. (p. 31)
She felt the prayer more than heard it; it started from somewhere deep down and fluttered toward her head like tiny flecks of light, tiny beacons moving like a school of fish, continually swimming away from a darkness that threatened to swallow them (p. 218)
They moved slowly like fusgeyers, wanderers seeking a home in Europe, or eru West African tribesmen herded off a ship on a Virginia shore to peer back across the Atlantic in the direction of their homeland one last time, moving toward a common destiny, all of them - Isaac, Nate, and the rest - into a future of American nothing. (p. 225)
Chona wasn't one of them. She was the one among them who ruined his hate for them, and for that he resented her. (p. 237)
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"In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe's theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe. As these characters' stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town's white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community--heaven and earth--that sustain us."--

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