James

James
Author:
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Tag: Audiobooks
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Year: 2024
ASIN: B0C8MGS6GR
ISBN: 978038555036

After decades of endless readings and analysis of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Percival Everett gives us a new perspective: that of Jim, the enslaved man who escapes with Huck after he learns he is to be sold and separated from his wife and daughter. While we so often think of Huck Finn’s story as an adventure (with admittedly dark origins for Huck as well), for Jim it is a life-and-death journey. We learn of his intelligence, deep interest in philosophy, and the ways that he and other enslaved people adjust their language and behavior to survive and accommodate the white people who oppress them. Huck is rightly reframed as a mere child who Jim feels protective of but can actually do little to protect.

I don’t actually like retellings of classic novels (think modern versions of Jane Austen), but I do like novels told from the perspective of other characters (another that I enjoyed is March by Geraldine Brooks, which tells of the story of the father from Little Women). This one more closely adheres to the narrative we’re familiar with, while giving James a voice and agency. I would have liked to reread Huck Finn before starting this, so I recommend that if you have the opportunity. Nonetheless, the story is familiar and this new perspective isn’t just incredible, but feels necessary.

About the Book

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Publisher’s Description

When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a man in New Orleans, separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father, recently returned to town. As all readers of American literature know, thus begins the dangerous and transcendent journey by raft down the Mississippi River toward the elusive and too-often-unreliable promise of the Free States and beyond.

While many narrative set pieces of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remain in place (floods and storms, stumbling across both unexpected death and unexpected treasure in the myriad stopping points along the river’s banks, encountering the scam artists posing as the Duke and Dauphin…), Jim’s agency, intelligence and compassion are shown in a radically new light.

Brimming with the electrifying humor and lacerating observations that have made Everett a “literary icon” (Oprah Daily), and one of the most decorated writers of our lifetime, James is destined to be a major publishing event and a cornerstone of twenty-first century American literature.

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