Cover Image: Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

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Not my favorite of Colson Whitehead's body of work, but a solid read nonetheless. Contemporarily relevant themes and ordinary characters are what make it interesting.
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#NetGalley published 9/14/21

I have heard such good things about his books about slavery. Never got a chance to read them. So when I saw this book, I jumped at the chance to read it. But it has taken me forever to get to 60% and decide that it was time to put it down. Yup. This was a #dnf. I don't do this often but my falling asleep on this book constantly has made me fall behind on all my other ARC's. Also, since it was slow and library books have come in in the middle, I have deferred to the new books and didn't miss this one at all. 🤷‍♀️ I think I gave it a fair amount of time. 

Now about the book itself. It took a while to even be able to understand what the book was about. The beginning was very disjointed. The writing was a little choppy. But I think that the choppiness was intentionally done. I think it's the way the main character, Carney thinks. There really is only one main character the others all seem to just be support. I could not get invested in Carney at all. He's a furniture store owner who goes a little dirty. The book started just after the war but then all of a sudden its the 50s, maybe 60s. It was not very distinct. I just could not get into it. 

I'm done. I give up.

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I don’t really know how to describe this book. I didn’t read about it going into it, I was just sold on it being by Colson Whitehead, whose writing I had heard nothing but good things about. 

This book was brilliantly written. It’s divided into parts and, honestly, after part one and after part two I was like “well what could possibly come next?” And then was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the fastest paced book, but it’s very intriguing and immersive. 

"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…" Carney isn’t exactly a crook. He’s a small business owner, selling furniture from the store he owns! I mean, he does sell some things on the side, every once in a while when his cousin Freddie brings something around, without asking any questions but… he’s not at all like his criminal father. Until Freddie volunteers Ray as the fence for an upcoming robbery, and everything changes…
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3.5 stars

You can read all of my reviews at Nerd Girl Loves Books.

This is a good historical fiction mystery set in Harlem in the early 1960s. Ray Carney came from nothing and with his drive and ambition he's opened his own furniture store selling reasonably priced furniture. Money is always tight, so if his cousin Freddie drops off the occasional piece of jewelry, he doesn't ask questions, and neither does the jeweler he takes it to.

When Freddie falls into a crew that pulls a high-profile heist, Ray is drug into the aftermath. Ray must navigate the criminal world, and every step he takes could mean the end of his way of life, or even his life.

The book is well-written and the characters are fully formed. Ray is smart, cunning and very determined to better his life and stay alive. The book's pace is slow and steady, which is good as far as worldbuilding and setting the tone, but hard to plow through at times. There were definitely parts of the book where I found myself skimming to get to the next plot point. While I'm used to reading books that move a lot quicker, this slow-paced, methodical book was a nice change of pace and I liked it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Doubleday Books. All opinions are my own.
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How have I not read any of Colson Whitehead’s other books?  His writing is wonderful with portrayals of people and places feel so real and you will have no trouble visualizing it in your head as you read.  I’d love to see it as a movie or series.

Told in three parts 1959, 1961, and 1964, Ray Carney is constantly being pulled into trouble by his cousin, Freddie.  Carney just wants to make a good living for his family, but he is unwillingly pulled into a heist and things tumble from there.

Sprinkled with a bit of humor and several historical references, this book was fantastic.

Many thanks to @netgalley and @doubledaybooks for the digital copy of this book!
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This is the first by Whitehead I’ve picked up and was floored. I am usually not a historical fiction fan, so I’ll admit to being a bit hesitant, but this story wows. Whitehead paints a perfect picture of 50s Harlem and opened my eyes to so many things I had not before thought of or considered. This novel is absolutely a love letter to Harlem, a place that many immediately think of in a negative light and I love the adoration which is clear through this novel.
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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is a beautifully written novel about Harlem with all its elegance and grittiness of the 1960's .  We meet Ray Carney who is striving to be a high end furniture guy with a upstanding business and well respected in the community. But is contrasted with another side of himself with a growing family and in-laws who feel his wife deserves better, that he should do better.  And yet he struggles with another side of himself that has friends in low places, comes from a line of shady characters and sometimes turns a small profit from stolen goods.  Carney is quickly in over his head and the struggle is coming to a head.  I recommend this book, it did take a while to get moving along, but overall I am happy it is in my library.  I received an ARC of this book, all opinions are my own.
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Meandering, and definitely mis characterized as a crime novel. This is a character driven journey to the 1970s Bronx that happens to include a heist.
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"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time. 
Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. 
It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. 
But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
A special thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Another excellent, thought-provoking novel from Colson Whitehead. Expertly drawn and paced with a lush setting. Ray Carney is such a well-developed character that I know he'll stick with me for a long time.
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Enjoyable but this is not his best work.  I still think about The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys but as soon as I finished this book I forgot about it.
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Colson Whitehead loves Harlem and it is so reflected in this tale in Harlem in the 1950-60’s as he places you in the midst of Harlem by relaying in minute detail block by block, restaurant by restaurant and hotel by hotel.  He has fully researched the Harlem area and I found his description of the glory days of the entertainment world particularly fascinating.  The plot, I found, is complex and sad in that society itself let along a family tie have combined to chain Ray to a life of crime whether he actually accepts that he is part of the problem.  I wasn’t used to the tempo of Ebonics used whenever there was to be a crime caper but that is a personal preference.  Readers of historical fiction, particularly New York area, and crime fiction will enjoy this book.  Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for an ARC of this book.  This is my honest review.

PLEASE NOTE:  I have submitted a copy of this review both on Goodreads and Amazon on September 14, 2021.
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I have never read a book by the author but thought the synopsis sounded too good to pass up. So glad I requested this book. The writing was superb and the story engrossing. My next stop is the author's back catalog to see what other gems I have missed.

Thank you to Doubleday and Netgalley
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I was interested in this book purely because I had enjoyed other books by the author and not really based on the description of the plot. 
Though this isn't usually a book I'd pick up, I was so glad that I did. The author is able to totally transports readers to a specific time and place with this work. The writing is detailed without being overly descriptive. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat. I think this book will be great for new readers to discover an amazing author. It will especially appeal to those who enjoy a strong sense of place and crime fiction. 
After finishing it, I saw that he called this book his "love letter to Harlem", and I really think it reads that way. I can't wait to go back and read more of his previous works!
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Colson Whitehead does historical fiction is such a raw, atmospheric, and authentic way. This is not your light and fluffy WWII, women with her back turned to the cover type historical novel. This is multi-layered and vibrant giving readers a view into 1960s/1970s Harlem and the crime and familial relationships that colored the town. 

At the end of the day, this book is about hustle. Hustle for your family, for your life, for your survival. Filled with diverse characters, events from the Civil Rights movement, and a complex plot, this is a great read for those looking to expand their understanding of the 1960s. I think this would be great for students to read for an independent novel but probably wouldn't adopt for a whole class read - maybe one day.
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Another great Whitehead novel.  I loved the character of Carney.  He was so well developed as a character.  It was interesting to see him justify his actions to himself.  The pacing threw me a bit.  At times I wasnt sure where the plot was headed and what the point was but I stuck with it and was glad i did.  ill be recommending this to alk my patrons who like historical fiction and diverse reads.
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Thank you to #netgalley for a copy of the book in exchange for my review. 

Ray Carney is just a regular guy trying to make his way with his furniture store. Trying to make a living for his family, while his in-laws look down on him. Some don't know that Ray's dad was a crook back in the day, and Ray seems to no longer be able to out run his past. Is he going to be sucked into a world of crime, can he escape what others are trying to drag him into, or will everything he worked for go down the drain? 

Read Nickel Boys last year with my book club and really enjoyed that book. This book was a bit slow and meandering and did not have my attention for parts. It has Whitehead's signature style and amazing writing. This historical fiction piece really painted a picture of 1960s Harlem beautifully, the characters were only a small part of that story. There was not a lot of layering for the reader, it was a bunch of backstory, and not the here and now. The meat of the story was being told after it happened not in real time. I know this all seems nitpicky, and it is, trying to lay out what was missing for me in this book. My rating 3.5⭐.
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I tried so hard to like Harlem Shuffle… But every time I tried to read it, I would fall asleep. I even tried audiobook, but it just wasn’t working for me. After six weeks, I’m quitting it at 16%. ⁣
⁣Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for an ARC.
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I received a reviewer copy of Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead from the publisher Doubleday Books from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW: Addiction, Gun Violence, Murder, Police Brutality, Drug Abuse  

What It’s About: Carney owns a reasonably priced furniture store and is living the dream, happily married to his wife, Elizabeth, and expecting a second child. So even though his in-laws don’t think much of him, he’s doing really well. Still, things are tight so if  occasionally his cousin Freddie drops off a ring or necklace, he doesn’t ask questions. The one day, Freddie falls in with a bigger enterprise and suddenly things aren’t just cracks in the road. 

What I Loved: The writing is fantastic as always, this is written as a love letter to Harlem and you are transported to 1960’s Harlem with references to the freedom riders and movers and shakers of the time period, the novel while written to be a heist novel is an interesting character study where we have a son of a crook wanting to live on the straight and narrow, while also being in contact with his old neighborhood people and having to deal with his in-laws constant disapproval. 

What I Didn't Like So Much: I felt like often there were too many characters and I didn’t know who all of them were. Also the pacing of the story didn’t work for me, this might be because it was on audio, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I wasn’t sure what was happening and often had to pause and say, “Wait, did I miss that…” This could very well be a me problem.  

Who Should Read This: People who love novels set in Harlem. People who like character driven studies. People who love classic New York city vibes. 

Quick Summary: A son of a crook tries to make good as a furniture salesman but its not so easy amidst a big heist.
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I really liked Colson Whitehead’s books The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, but I didn’t find this one as enjoyable. It is also beautifully written, but I had a hard time getting interested in the stories of small time Harlem crooks.
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