Review: Deacon King Kong

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Review for “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This story literally begins with a bang: in 1969 in a housing project in South Brooklyn, a somewhat senile, hooch-drinking deacon nicknamed Sportcoat wanders into the local courtyard and shoots the neighborhood drug dealer with an old pistol point-blank, in front of dozens of people. After establishing this shocking act of violence, James McBride explores how Sportcoat’s action came to be, as well as the lives and the dynamic of an entire community of Black and brown people under the rule of a local mobster, a lonely crime boss with a mysterious past.

There’s a wide assortment of characters here and you might even lose track: there’s Sportcoat’s friend, an affable man named Hot Sausage, Sportcoat’s dead wife, Hettie, with whom he regularly communicates, salsa musicians, capers involving missing church Christmas money, mountains of delicious cheese, even a cadre of red Colombian jungle ants. It’s a lot for a book to handle, and about halfway in my weariness in keeping up with everything began to kick in with me skipping over pages at a time. McBride is a great writer, however, so I was compelled to stay until the end. “Deacon King Kong” isn’t the best book of the year, but it’s definitely an interesting read.

To get into the any more specifics of this book would ruin it, so I’ll leave this review with a solid four stars.

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