Cover Image: Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

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Member Reviews

Read an ARC. 

While this is my first foray into anything written by Whitehead, this story of two cousins is incredibly compelling and I would absolutely read more. One is a mild mannered furniture salesman that slips between racial vignettes and the other is often oblivious to the broader picture. The story winds through time and explores the various tests of family connections in particular the legacy of parents. Supporting characters are have depth and substance without pandering or relying on tropes. 

I had to take a little time between sections because there are some heavy parts and some violence. Would recommend for older teenagers up through senior citizens who may enjoy the trip back to a time before answering machines when people had their usual haunts and kept their heads out of their cellphones.
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This was my first Colson Whitehead novel, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. It started off a little slow to me, but I was determined to get past the first quarter of the story to see if I wanted to stick with it. I’m glad I did.

Whitehead gave us backstory on characters and settings by going down rabbit holes. At first, I thought this was unnecessary to tell the story, but I realized I was given insight to little gems of character development for both the cast and locations this way.

Harlem in the 1960s was depicted as a hotbed of crime, corruption, and we are told the story of a man trying to raise a family and make a living the only way he knew how or had the choice in doing so. Just when you thought the entire story would be about a hotel heist, you are introduced to other unsavory and eclectic characters involved in other ventures entirely. You are schooled on furniture and civil right events that occurred in New York during this period.

I was thoroughly surprised by this book. Again, I’m glad I stuck with it. So should you.
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This book is not the type that I usually read, but its description enthralled me. The story takes place in Harlem in the 1960s, and it follows an African-American man named Carney who repeatedly struggles to balances his legit business and his crooked one. Plot-wise, I would say that this book is more about vengeance than heists. One of the things that I liked the most is how the author portraited the political and social climate against the African-American Community. It was effortless to imagine the streets of Harlem and its air of violence, racism, and fear. With regards to the characters, I would say that they are well-constructed, but I did not empathize with any of them.  Also, I think that there is more background than action in this book, which makes it boring from time to time. In summary, I believe that this is not a bad book, but it was just not for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books, I had the opportunity to read the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed reading this book. I thought the characters were well developed and the plot moved at a pace that felt appropriate. I would like to read other books by this author in the future.
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Colin Whitehead is one of those wonderful authors who produces a different kind of book every time he writes one, leaving the reader anticipating a treat, but not knowing what form it will take. Harlem Shuffle is such a treat. 

Set in Harlem in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Shuffle’s protagonist Carney is a man hustling to make a living, striving to move beyond his meager background into a more solid future, but always pulled back by his environment, the expectation of those around him, and his loyalties. Only his wife Elizabeth believes in him.

And yet Elizabeth remains a curiously incurious bystander as our hero struggles to survive and even thrive. While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I was disappointed in the lack of depth in the relationship between Carney and his wife. There’s more time spent on the background of Carney’s various associates than on his emotional connection with his wife. We’re not told until near the end of the book that she has no idea what he’s been/is up to. I find this hard to believe. 

Unless Mr. Whitehead is preparing us for a sequel...... Now that would be something to look forward to.
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Colson Whitehead’s writing is undeniably beautiful and this story of Ray Carney living a dual life as a furniture store owner, who occasionally ignores a lack of provenance to turn a few pieces of jewelry into money for a cut, is intriguing. Told in three time periods the reader follows Ray’s attempt to rise in society while at the same time he is unable to break from his cousin and other unscrupulous pals. This is the Harlem of pawn brokers, hole-in-the-wall bars, thugs, crooked cops, and pay-offs and it comes alive in the hands of this Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. 

I have loved the last two novels by Whitehead. My sense is that this one might be more like his vintage works but I can’t compare. I sort of expected a big heist story and this turned out to be more of a character driven tale with a strong sense of Harlem in the 60s. This is not my favorite type of book but I found much in it to like and admire. 

Thanks to #Doubleday and  #NetGalley for this #advancereaderscopy.
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If you want to be transported in time back to 1960s Harlem, this is the book for you! Colton Whitehead delivers another powerful novel in Harlem Shuffle. He brings us Ray Carney, a legitimate furniture salesman and family man. He is described as a “decent guy, only slightly bent” when it comes to being crooked. Everyone likes Carney and readers of Harlem Shuffle will too. As for Harlem, I fell in love with it too, warts and all. Carney took me into his life, his feelings, his experiences, and I didn’t want to leave the hustle and shuffle of it all. An outstanding literary piece, and I expected nothing less from Colson Whitehead.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I've never read this author's work before, so I wasnt sure what I was getting into. Colson Whitehead wove a vivid and wonderful world. Would highly recommend this book.
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Colson Whitehead returns with Harlem Shuffle, a historical fiction novel, with Harlem serving both as a  character (of sorts) and as the centralized setting in a rendering of its (and Manhattan’s) origin and evolution during a transformative (Civil Rights) era.  Cleverly told in three interconnected vignettes spanning five years (1959-64), we follow a young, self-made family man’s (Ray Carney) struggle to manage and expand his furniture business legitimately while trying to avoid the trappings of “easy (ill-gotten) money” via the antics of his brother/cousin, Freddie, a part-time, low-rate hustler and thief who has had a penchant for mischief and trouble since childhood. 

Rich with characters that embodied the times, we tour the neighborhoods, infamous landmarks, and its inhabitants - we meet Ray’s Striver’s Row entrenched in-laws and glimpse the views/attitudes of Harlem’s power-hungry elite, we glimpse new arrivals of the Great Migration as Ray’s employees who are fresh from the South and full of hopes and dreams, the weary, honest working-class, the gangsters proliferating narcotics and prostitution while battling to claim and hold territory, and the desperate who resort to anything to survive.  

As much as things change, things remain the same -- years of discrimination, unchecked police brutality, second-class citizenship, poverty, systemic racism magnified by the unbearable summer heat results in riots when a white police officer guns down a black, unarmed youth.  Lured into a stolen jewels heist by Freddie, Ray must navigate a city on fire amid protests, looters -- he “dabbles in the dirt” while relying on his innate street smarts and shady connections to protect his family, business, dreams, and himself from corrupt cops, shakedown gangsters, and double-crossing cohorts.  

For me, this started a bit slow but once the capers were afoot, momentum picked up and I was pulling for Ray and Pepper.  Recommended for fans of Deacon King Kong and fans of the author.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Doubleday, for the opportunity to review!
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“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” Thus starts Colson Whitehead’s latest book, “Harlem Shuffle.” Whitehead is a master of language. It is a pleasure to read his books and appreciate his wonderful ability to create whole worlds through his words. He did so in his previous books and that skill is evident in this latest book. While “Harlem Shuffle” may not seem as deeply serious as “The Underground Railroad” or “The Nickel Boys’, it was equally troubling in exposing racism and the challenges of the American Dream. Whitehead introduces us to mid-20th century Harlem in all its glory and its gory. It is a ‘real’ world enriched by events of the day and even details of specific brands popular at the time. Love the title too! Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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This is an entertaining story set in a vividly painted specific time and place. This is quite different from The Nickel Boys, which was outstanding, but this is equally well written. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is good, but for me nothing can beats The Nickel Boys. I love this author since I read The Nickel Boys, and it won the Pulitzer Prize which is marvelous. And this book isn't a let-down either. I will give this book a solid 4⭐. I am waiting forward for this author's next book. Thank you NetGalley and Doubledaybooks for the free pre-appeoval ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Ray Carney is an honest businessman, give or take. True, a certain percentage of the wares in his furniture store fell off the back of a truck, but the quality is good and the prices are fair, which is more than is more than can be said of most aspects of life of Harlem in the 1960s. Then his idiot cousin Freddie offers him up as a fence for a stratospheric score. This marks the beginning of Ray's mad tap dance as he tries to get what he's owed and protect his own. The lovingly-rendered setting is as much a character as any person in this novel.
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This is more than a caper/heist novel. It envelopes the reader in the times, the setting, the vibe of 1960 s Harlem.  The characters are interesting, complicated, and surprising as they navigate asperation, satisfaction and frustration amidst the changing world of protagonist Ray Carney. His legitimate side rises with the success of his business and family life. While his past and need to function on the edges of legality pull him into trouble, and perhaps danger.  All of the action is bracketed by the changing nature of his New York neighborhood and the civil rights protests of the period.  It is a very good read.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the opportunity to read an advance copy of Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle in exchange for an honest review.  

I truly enjoy a good heist story and have enjoyed several of Colson Whitehead's previous novels, so I was very excited to have access to this new one before publication.  Harlem Shuffle places the reader vividly in 1959 Harlem, in the life of Ray Carney, a furniture salesman, who is described as "only slightly bent when it came to being crooked."  That is an apt description, as for the most part, Ray tries to run his life and his business on the straight and narrow.  His family history and current associations make it difficult, and as the novel progresses through 1965, he finds it more and more difficult to keep things clean. 

The characters are well-developed, and the reader gets to know the backstory of even minor characters.  There are a lot of them, and a large number reappear throughout the book in ongoing roles.  Ray's family loyalty, as well as the financial struggles and racial disparity he struggles to overcome as a businessman allow the reader insight into the basis for his non-furniture dealings.  I especially enjoyed the middle section of the book, 'Dorvay 1961' as Ray seeks to even a score with unanticipated repercussions. 

Harlem Shuffle is a bit of a shift from other books by Mr. Whitehead; it is a family saga that reads like a crime novel.  Well worth the time to read it!
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Colton Whiteheads Harlem Shuffle is another literary masterpiece to add to the library of his previous books.A book I will be recommending to book clubs college and high school classes,#netgalley#doubledaybooks
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This story, set in Harlem, begins in 1959 with Ray Carney, a man who owns a furniture and appliance store on 125th Street, the ‘main street’ of Harlem, a street that will also come to be known as Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard years later. But that is twenty-five years in the future as this begins.

To those who know or have dealt with Ray, he is a decent guy, trying to make a decent living selling furniture at a fair price, only slightly bent when it comes to being crooked. A likeable guy to all who meet him, with a wife who is expecting a child - their second. A family man.

It almost doesn’t matter what takes place in the story, this is more of a love letter to this place and this time, an ode to the good and the bad of the time. Sprinkled throughout are references to those places that most people will recognize - the Apollo Theatre, the descriptions of the posters of the time, the rhythm of the city and the people. A slightly mischievous take on the era rather than a dark and sinister tale that seems born of a sentimental fondness for these bygone days. That doesn’t mean that it is devoid of darker, more dangerous moments, those serve to give a sense of a balance.

Harlem has changed since those days, it has become more gentrified in the years since, but Whitehead brilliantly brings the Harlem of that era to life with a nostalgic touch through this story. While this does include tragic moments, there are lighter moments, as well, and so much love for this place and these people.



Pub Date: 14 Sep 2021

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Doubleday Books / Doubleday
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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is a great historical fiction that has it all: history, mystery, suspense, and a fresh and unique narrative that really kept me interested from beginning to end.

It was fascinating to follow Ray and the full array of characters as they make their way (some treading water…some slowly going under) through the hopping 1960’s Harlem. There were dips, dives, twists, edges, and cliffs that kept me on my toes as I followed along. The author has a real talent in creating an intense and immersive visual of what things were like at this time. I was beyond impressed.

This is the first book I have read by this author, and it most certainly won’t be the last. 

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Doubleday Books for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.
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Thank you Doubleday and NetGalley for the amazing chance to read this outstanding novel! 

Harlem Shuffle is a new American classic that should be read by everyone and take its rightful place in the literary canon. 
The writing was freaking phenomenal. I felt like I was legit in Harlem. Just fabulous writing that drew me in and didn't let go! Colson did a great job with this book! 
I couldn't turn my eyes from the pages. Stunning no doubt. 

Again thank you so much for this awesome book! 
Five amazing stars!
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I fell in love with The Nickel Boys and had such high hopes for Harlem Shuffle. However, there were just too many characters to keep track of. They prevented me from fully following the narrative and comprehending what was happening and ultimately just served as a distraction. The plot was disjointed and I just found myself not fully engaged. The writing was still strong and beautiful.
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