Cover Image: Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

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Another example of a book that might be too literate for the audio format. I enjoyed parts of it and the character of Carney, but the sum was somewhat confounding. I'd like to go back and re-read.
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My experience with Colson Whitehead is this: 1) I feel like I should love his books because he is clearly an immensely talented writer. 2) I abandoned Underground Railroad. 3) I liked The Nickel Boys. I think Whitehead is one of these authors who I can acknowledge as great and also say “he’s not for me”. 

Harlem Shuffle was a slog for me and I ended up abandoning after 123 pages. Sometimes that 100 page mark is where things hook me, but after that, if I’m not invested by that point, I’m moving on. I’m not interested in finishing a book that will probably put me in a reading slump. I do like literary fiction so I don’t always need a plot to move quickly but so little was happening that I was literally getting sleepy and rereading sentences 3-4 times. 

What I do think was done well was the setting. Harlem is a living being in this book and I could vividly imagine myself there.  There are some sentences that just perfectly capture a mood or an expression or a feeling or even the whole season during which the story happens.  If you’re a diehard Whitehead fan, you’ll probably love anything he writes, but if you’re already indifferent, I would just skip this one.
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This is the first book I've read by Colson Whitehead. He is definitely a talented writer, and I think this book qualifies as Literary Fiction because of the depth of characters and the intense plot. It is a mystery, and I really like the main character Carney as we learn more about him and his family as the book.unfolds. There are some high class bad guys that remind of the Godfather. I could easily see this book being made into a movie for I think it would be a great movie! At times though the plot confused me. I want to read more of Whitehead's books. I strongly recommend this book!
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3.5 stars

This is a book about 1960's Harlem and the crime sprees and layered relationships associated to them.  There is some entertainment here as you think about how the furniture store down the street may be much more than it appears.  To me, this book didn't draw me in to the story line as much as I had hoped.  There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I didn't feel a connection to them.
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I recently read Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead.  It was a big departure from the classics I normally read.  It spanned 20 plus years of the life of a guy who lived in Harlem starting in the late 1940s.  Considering my rural upbringing, this was far from anything I had been exposed to.  It takes such different skills to live in an inner city. A worthy read for suburban students.
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This book was really interesting. It was a look inside 1960s Harlem. The setting was like another character in the book. And I loved all the characters and the language of this book. It was such an amazing book. Just be warned it does deal with some difficult issues.
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This is not the type of book that I normally read, but i got it as ARC and thought I'd give it a try. I quite enjoyed it. I had a little trouble keeping track all of the players, especially when they would change between surnames and first names, but the characters were interesting enough to keep my attention - especially Carney and Freddie. A good heist-style story with some history.
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The premise of this made it seem like this was going to be an action packed heist story, I thought it was actually light on the action and lacking much plot. Ray Carney is a petty thief who sees himself as an upstanding citizen and while I liked Ray, I found that he along with the many side characters weren't very layered. There was a lot of talk and not a lot of action which caused me to feel bored. the humor that is in the book is very subtle and not enough to keep me interested
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I just couldn't get into this one - loved The Nickel Boys and Underground Railroad, so it was disappointing to give up on this at almost the half-way point. There was something about the rhythm of the writing, the slow pace, and my not feeling a connection to any of the characters, I guess. It isn't bad, just not something I want to spend any more time with, so I'm giving it a couple of stars - because it's Colson Whitehead!
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I don't read a lot of thrillers or noir, but I so admire Colson Whitehead's storytelling and writing that I knew I had to pick up "Harlem Shuffle." Whitehead accomplishes a lot in a fairly compact volume: There's Black history here, interesting details about New York City and its inhabitants, finely observed friendships and marriages, information about 1960s furniture and more. It's all layered over a plot that includes a big heist and lots of business dealings, some more crooked than others. Most of the story unfolds in the 1960s, but there are flashes back to earlier days, too. For every scene that stirs up nostalgia for old diners and men wearing nice hats, there are reminders that some things haven't changed much at all, most distressingly when it comes to the shootings of innocent Black children by police.
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Another masterpiece by Colson Whitehead. This was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2021, and it did not disappoint. Harlem Shuffle is probably the best crime novel I've read, exploring three separate but connected heists involving main protagonist Ray Carney. I thoroughly enjoyed Carney's attempts to keep his straight-and-narrow, furniture salesman side far apart from his crooked side. The action along with the Civil Rights-era history of Harlem, New York City made this an exceptional read.
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This book is marketed as crime fiction, but being Whitehead, this was so much more literary and well-written than an everyday thriller. This is thrilling, but not a thriller. This is the story of a man straddling two sides of business, a respected furniture store with some illegal activities mixed in, while trying to support his family in 1950-60s Harlem.

I have mixed feelings on this one. I didn’t find the plot as riveting as expected without the emotional punch. Some of the backstories were a touch drawn out and repetitive.

However, Harlem Shuffle absolutely holds true to Whitehead’s great writing style. He creates such interesting characters and I was particularly invested in the family drama layer to the story.

There’s SO much more to Harlem Shuffle than crime. If you want traditional crime fiction with a clear mystery to solve and a lot of action, this isn’t it. If you want an atmospheric story about loyalty, morality, and corruption, then you’ll probably love it.
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Harlem certainly has the staring role as well as the title role in the latest book from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Colson Whitehead. It was alive an vibrant, with all the hustle and bustle it was known for in the 1950’s-1960’s.
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After having read and loved two of this authors earlier books (The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad) I was very excited to get this book from @doubledaybooks and @netgalley. I was really surprised that the genre was so different. This was a somewhat lighthearted glimpse at life in Harlem for one man and his family as he does a balancing act between his ambition, the life he wants and the life his choices have thrust upon him.
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It is a crime caper, a family drama, a taste of history and was very well written. I felt like it was colorful, descriptive and very reflective of the times, all while echoing modern day issues; corruption, crime, policing, white privilege, ethics and morality.
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It it a totally different style and feel than the earlier books I had read. While I enjoyed this one for a bit, it is not going to stick with me like The Nickel Boys has.
This seems more commercial, I can see it as a major motion picture along the lines of one of my old favorites, The Sting from the 70’s.
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Courtesy of Netgalley I received the ARC of Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Set in 1960's Harlem, this mystery novel captures the atmosphere and attitudes of that era. This is a story of families and allegiances, race and power. Blurring the line between the double life of a successful businessman and his slightly crooked tendencies, Carney is a perfect protagonist!
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Having read and loved Colson’s previous book award winners, I had high expectations coming into this one, even knowing it was a bit different genre wise than those books. 

I appreciated the rich descriptions of the city, especially Harlem, which transported me back in time and delivered on that authentic grittiness of the city. The culture, sounds, and inherent chaos and thrumming of energy that is NYC. However, the family dynamics were slow to unfold and often times it felt like there was supposed to be more emotional depth and connection than what came across. I found myself struggling to feel invested, given the slow pacing, all the while hoping for a big payoff which never really comes. 

It may be that I just picked this up at the wrong time, where I’m not able to appreciate sitting with a character-driven story with such a slow and methodical pace. The heist that’s promised is pretty minor in terms of its time on the pages, all things considered and really isn’t the center driving force or main event, so those coming into this expecting something similar to Blacktop Wasteland or the like, will be disappointed. 

Many thanks for my review copy!
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Though I have heard great things about Whitehead's writing (and in fact, one of his earlier novels is already in my expansive TBR pile), this marks my first experience with his work. And I really enjoyed his writing style! Set from 1957 to 1964, the book largely comes from Ray Carney's perspective. Ray owns and runs a furniture store in Harlem. But despite this respectable job, he has one foot in the criminal world as well. The details of the historical period and setting shine here and feel both authentic and well-researched. 

While the plot meanders a bit, it's a riveting read at the same time. The characters all come to life - even (or perhaps especially) when they make such frustrating decisions! I do wish that the ending had tied things up just a bit more - it felt kind of abrupt to me. But I do think that the book overall will be a good one to generate plenty of discussion amongst its readers. I wish that there had been just a bit more to the ending... Some of the action happens off page, but this one is still a page turner on its own. The real star, though, is actually the setting. I am really looking forward to reading more from Whitehead in the future!
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Harlem Shuffle is how one event/evening can change your life. Ray Carney owns a furniture store on 125th in Harlem in the 1960s but in order to cover the rent Ray moves small amounts of jewelry and other items for people. One night he get dragged into a heist by his cousin that will change the way his life is going. This is a story of a man who is "only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” but will events bend him a little farther. Will he become more like his crooked father or will he find a way out of it.  

This is not my favorite of Whitehead's novels but as I think back on it there is something about this Ray that makes you route for him and the hope that he finds a way out of all that has been brought upon him. This was a good read.
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I was really looking forward to reading a book by Colson Whitehead, but this one just wasn’t the one for me.  Set in 1960’s Harlem, the story centers around furniture salesman, Ray Carney and his cousin, who is of questionable character.

Ray is trying to make an honest living, but somehow his cousin manages to get him involved in the shady side of Harlem.   Ray is juggling his business and his secrets, trying to keep his family from finding out about his double life.

I had so much trouble getting interested in the story that I set it aside for a while.  I’m glad I did finish it and find out what happened to Ray during all the shady dealings.  It was also an enlightening look into life in Harlem during the 1960’s.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
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Colson Whitehead gives us another poignant, captivating  work in Harlem Shuffle; his deft hand with historical fiction and his incredible character development are on full display. The story of Carney, a furniture store owner in Harlem in the early 1960s, takes the form of smooth narration punctuated with rich, powerful moments.

Gradual, nuanced character development creates and then systematically tightens a reader’s sympathy and frustration with Carney. He is a truly flawed hero, a Willy Loman type who just wants the American dream, but his surroundings and most of all his race place larger and larger hurdles in his way.

The book is certainly timely and explores a different part of Black history than those we often see in historical fiction. Finally, I love the fact that it is single narratiive. Whitehead doesn’t  need the way-too-popular gimmick of multiple narrators or multiple time periods to show his prowess or keep a reader’s attention.

Thank you to Colson Whitshead, Doubleday Books, and NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review..
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"Carney was only slightly bent went it came to being crooked..." 1960's Harlem lifelong resident, Carney,  has seen his days of abandonment, hardship, hustling, and temptation. With a growing family to support, he wants to be more, to do better than his own dad, and yet, he can't seem to quite get ahead without being pulled into the life of crime, a life in which his own father lived, and it costs him time and time again as he is witness and victim to acts of violence, stemming mostly from a major heist in which he becomes too involved.

Whitehead is truly a masterful storyteller. While Harlem Shuffle did not engage me as much as Underground Railroad, it is a story that is uniquely told and has such detail that I felt like I was walking alongside Carney in the streets of Harlem, among the characters of his world.

" Beneath the vast and eternal churn of the night sky, the eyes adjust. One night Freddy said the stars made him feel small. The boy’s constellation knowledge stalled after the dippers and the belt but you didn’t have to know what something was called to know how it made you feel. And looking at the stars didn’t make Carney feel small or insignificant. The stars made him feel recognized. They had their place and he had his. We all have our station in life. People, stars, cities, and even if no one looked after Carney and no one suspected him capable of much at all, he was going to make himself into something."

...Carney's story is one of struggle and perseverance. In the vein of Ocean's Eleven without the humor. Even though our circumstances and stations in life are different from each other, each of us struggles to find our own place, to carve out our own lives, making things a little bit better for the generation ahead of us. Carney never stopped trying to do this. 

Thanks, Net Galley for the arc in exchange for my honest review. I paired the audio version with the digital arc and I can say the audio narration was perfection and truly made the characters come alive. While it isn't my favorite Colson Whitehead book, it was definitely worth the trip to Harlem to visit this cast of characters.
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