Cover Image: Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

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Unfortunately, I had to give up on this story after about 16%. I didn't find the characters or the story relatable - I wasn't really compelled to keep reading it. 

Thanks, anyway, NetGalley, for letting me give this one a try.
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Thank you to @netgalley and @doubledaybooks for this advanced readers copy.  This is my first novel by famed Pulitzer Prize winning author Colson Whitehead.  The book was written in three parts, with each part having its own distinct crime caper.  I often felt disoriented and disconnected as the reader, and I’m not sure if I struggled due to the changing storyline in each section, or because I read this in ebook format, or a combination of both of those things.  I enjoyed the Ocean’s Eleven meets Deacon King Kong vibes and the subtle dry humor throughout the book made me laugh on several occasions.  There’s no doubt Whitehead is a talented author and his many fans will love this newest release.
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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Full feature for this title will be posted at: @queensuprememortician on Instagram!
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I was excited to read Harlem Shuffle after The Nickel Boys, but it didn't grab me that well. 

"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. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home. 

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. 

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.
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I really enjoyed Colson Whitehead's writing in this book. It is my first book of his, so I had nothing to compare it to (especially given that this is apparently a detour from his normal genres?). However, it was really slow throughout the first part, and by the time I got to the second part, I felt like I was finished reading a story. I DNFed it, although I feel like it's a book I may pick back up to give a try again in a few months because I really did like Ray Carney as a character and am interested in where his story goes.

Because I DNFed it, I won't be posting my review elsewhere (unless I pick it back up again to finish it), but thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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I really liked this book, “Harlem Shuffle.”  I love Colson Whitehead’s writing style.  This book gives the reader tremendous insight into life in Harlem.  The Carney family is a black, educated, and upstanding family in the community.  Ray Carney owns a furniture store which has a “shady” side.  Ray is devoted to his family including the extended family.  Specifically, his cousin, Freddie.  Ray’s father was a hoodlum and his mother died when he was young.  The challenges of wanting to live a “good” life but having ties to the “criminal world” is a consistent thread throughout the entire book.  The book has it all!  Theft, extortion, death, violence, police protection, police brutality, bribery, riots to name a few aspects of the books!  

The reader learns how hard life is to make an honest living as a black person.  For example, “Carney knew firsthand how hard it was for a Negro shopkeeper to persuade an insurance company to write a policy.”  Ray wants to expand his furniture line but he encounters resistance:  “We don’t cater to Negro gentlemen.”  

The book’s conclusion is powerful and revealing.  “…if you bottled the rage and hope and fury of all the people of Harlem and made it into a bomb, the results would look something life this.”  Pick up this book!  You will not regret it.  Harlem will become much more than a place on the map.  

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Doubleday, for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This started off slow at the beginning, maybe the first 20 pages, but then it picked up and I was very invested in Carney, his family, and his cousin Freddie.   It was an engaging story that shows many of the struggles in the 1960s Harlem are still very much a part of the struggle today.   Colson Whitehead has done it again and made an engaging and thought provoking story.
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DNF at 30%.

I was excited to read this because of how much I loved The Nickel Boys, so I trudged through it a lot longer than I normally give a book that just isn't grabbing me.

The writing style did not disappoint. It was vivid, descriptive, and raw. It put me right in the Harlem that was in the author's head. The only problem was that I really didn't want to be there. The characters are complex and real and that would have been enough if there were just a little more going on plotwise. I just felt like I was watching the day-to-day drudgery of these great characters. And drudgery it was! I know what to expect from this author. No one is winning the lottery. No one is going to Disneyland. I get that. But something more needs to happen and it needs to happen faster. I just spent an hour with two characters driving around looking for a third character. I won't get that hour back.

Thank you NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This book is long. There’s a good story underneath all the extra words. The story cruises along but there are so many paragraphs of random thoughts/memories/life in Harlem blips that it is distracting. 
You do get a good idea of who Carney is and why he is. He’s got a bit of an internal struggle going on. Despite his delving into the dark side, you still find yourself cheering him on - you want to see him succeed. Heck, I even want Pepper to enjoy his new recliner! 
This gives you an idea of how life had to be lived for a regular family in Harlem if they want to make it in the 50s and 60s. Civil rights, crooked cops, organized crime, and a guy who just wants to give his family a decent life. 

I was able to read a prepub copy of this book for my honest review. I do recommend this book, as I hope Carney stays with you.
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Carney sells furniture and is a legitimate business man. OK. Maybe he's just slightly "bent," in the vernacular of the 1960s Harlem neighborhood where he tries to stay ahead of trouble in Colson Whitehead"s "Harlem Shuffle."

Whitehead tells the story of a guy who seems to want to rise above his troubled beginnings to become someone solid, responsible and respectable. Unfortunately for Carney, he keeps getting dragged into deeper and deeper trouble.

"Harlem Shuffle" is filled with an entertaining cast of characters, and it certainly isn't lacking for action or drama as Carney finds his respectable life under constant threat . . . from criminal activity that he can't seem to stay away from to the burgeoning struggle for civil rights for people of color.

Through it all, I just wanted to shake him and remind him that he had a good thing with his family and his business, and he shouldn't mess it up. Family allegiances and his familial origins might be what trip him, though.

The story is told in parts. I call those parts "Uh-oh," "Getting Worse" and "Oh My Gosh! What Have You Done?"

This review appears on Goodreads and on Facebook groups: Books, Brews and Bibliophiles; The Book Club Girls; and 52 Books.
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It’s the early 1960’s and Ray Carney owns a furniture store in Harlem. Ray’s father was a criminal but Ray has built a respectable business to support his young family. Ray is married to a woman who was raised in a higher social strata and he’s trying to live up to that. However, everyone in the community knows Ray’s father was a criminal and that’s been hard for him to live down. On the side Ray dabbles in stolen merchandise but is a lot less crooked than his father was. Ray gets involved in a jewelry heist that reverberates through the rest of his life. 
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I’ve not read Colson Whitehead before and this lives up to the hype. I really enjoyed it. The book is fast-paced, witty, and relevant to the issues of race that we are still facing in the United States today. 
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Thanks to @netgalley and @doubledaybooks for an advanced copy of book. It will be released on 9/14/21.
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This is the first novel that I read by this particular author, and because he is so highly regarded, I was so pleased to be approved for a review of the ARC of this novel. I felt like the novel dragged me through the story, which had too much filler and not enough action. Overall, I liked the idea of the story, because most families have a member that we deal with like Freddie, which did make the story relatable.  Other then that, I just had an awful time getting through it. 
The story follows Raymond Carney,  who is a furniture salesman in NYC Harlem area. Raymond has a wife, Elizabeth, and two children, May and John.  The story follows him through several years of his life as he continues to develop his business, both legal and illegal. Throughout the story he has to deal with the backlash of Freddie's illegal business dealings, and his drug problems.  You feel sorry for Carney as he gets dragged through things on account of his cousin, but at the same time you want to scream at him to stop bailing him out or he will never learn a lesson!  I think my favorite character had to be Pepper because of his "no BS" attitude, and his street smarts.  
I am told this is the author's writing style, so if you enjoy his writing style then this is a book for you.
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So far this week I’ve turned all my free time to plowing through Harlem Shuffle.  I agree with the opening letter from the publisher, Colson Whitehead now deserves an Edgar to accompany his many other awards.  “Classic” and “masterpiece” come to mind but those words are clichés and might tarnish the freshness of Harlem Shuffle 

I grew up passing thru Harlem on the New Haven RR and often wondered what happened on those "mean" streets.  The hopes and aspirations of Ray Carney and his family take place with 125th St as a backdrop, so I no longer have to guess about mid-century Harlem life.  Whitehead does a masterful job of portraying after hour bars, backroom hangouts and the bench jewelers in NY’s Diamond District.   These interconnected links, describe survival in Ray’s world.  The pecking order of protection schemes, as well as class divisions within his family fill out the invisible web surrounding Ray’s life.    

Whitehead has crafted a much gentler story than his earlier novels – The Underground Railroad and The Nickle Boys.   Violence is still present but it’s of a different sort – the kind that tears directly at the soul.  Translate: Whitehead shows us racism portrayed as an element of everyday, minute by minute life.  What does it take for hardworking decent people to wander over the law-abiding line?  1960s Harlem folk live by different rules, in a system whose boundaries they know too well.  Harlem Shuffle is a primer in survival.  

I thank Doubleday for a chance to read this ARC and I suggest it’s one you not miss, it as it is the best book that I’ve read in quite a while.
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Don’t expect more of The Underground Railroad here. Yes, this new novel by Colson Whitehead is again superbly crafted writing with nuanced characters the reader can embrace. Good people with some shady dealings! The reader quickly understands the blurred line between right and wrong when there are lives and livelihoods at stake. Whitehead provides insight into 1960’s Harlem and the citizens there who are coping with upheaval due to gentrification and the civil rights movement.
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Brilliant historical fiction from the incomparable Whitehead. The sense of place and the characters are so vivid that you feel like you're there. Highly recommend.
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Colson Whitehead’s newest effort is a genre-bending blend of historical fiction, family drama and noir-ish crime drama. It is a multi-layered look at New York City’s Harlem neighborhood during the 1950s and 1960s. The cast of characters is well-developed and diverse. Whitehead manages to capture the vibrance of the area during an era of social change while also shining a light on race, race riots, political corruption, white privilege, mob bosses,  and the Civil Rights movement. The heaviness of these subjects is lightened by comic relief. This nuanced story is a pleasure to read. 

Ray Carney is more or less a decent family man. He has moved on from his low-brow past, has married Elizabeth, and is running his own furniture store. The couple is expecting their second child, and finances are tight. He walks a tightrope between being a legitimate business man while “not seeing” the origins of the stolen goods his cousin brings him. Carney treads the streets of Harlem, showing the down-and-out hotels, the greasy spoon coffee shops, and the worn-out houses in which people struggle to survive. 

I enjoyed being transported back to this historical time and place which Whitehead so lovingly depicts.
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Edgy and lyrical. In Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle, there’s a feeling of nostalgia with its tone of pared-down awareness, melancholy, and moments of humor that sums up Ray Carney’s push-and-pull life and the world of Harlem. 

Whitehead does a superb job in not only capturing the mood but also the times—1960s Harlem—where Harlem is at the intersection of upward mobility, big city bustle, shine and grime, vibrant entertainment, hustlers, violent criminals, class disparities, multiculturalism, racism, and the Civil Rights Movement. 

Equally important to the plot is character development and overall vibe of the story. And at times the plot becomes secondary to the other two.  At those moments, the book reads like a memoir (in 3rd person). Or like a social and cultural commentary in poetic form. 

This was my first experience reading Whitehead’s work. It felt slow at times but overall I’d recommend it. Thanks NetGalley and DoubleDay for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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Harlem Shuffle depicts life in the sixties through the lens of a kaleidoscope, one minute it is a family drama, the next it is a crime story, then a story of loyalty, revenge and so on.  The multilayered story keeps peeling away while building on other layers.  The main character, Ray Carney, is a “little bent” but a wonder whether we all have a bit of larceny in us.

Ray, the descendant of crooks, wants to go straight and be a self-made man. Unfortunately, his cousin, to whom Ray remains fiercely loyal, and perhaps Ray’s desire to supplement his income leads him into a life more bent than he will admit. The cast of characters include Harlem’s bigwigs, including his father-in-law who demeans Ray every chance he gets, a tough who supports Ray, men on jewelers’ row, his bent cousin, the crooked cop, his wife and the white, rich, connected power guy. 

Colson Whitehead weaves the players and plot so intricately that you can’t wait to read what happens next. The evolution of Ray, or was it, take you on a ride that will stay with you for a long time.  

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to give my independent review.
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A book with solid characterizations and memorable depictions of an era gone by, Harlem Shuffle is quite unlike other famous works by Colson Whitehead.

For the most part, the book is a love song, an ode, to Harlem in the late 50s / early 60s, and some of the best portions are those describing the lives and livelihoods of ordinary denizens of the city. You can almost see them - that's how well the author has managed to portray the events in the story.

The weakest part of the book is the story itself. There are things happening at a brisk pace all through, but the overall connection between the three sections of the novel doesn't really come across as a shiny example of literary brilliance., and falls quite short of being compelling. Whitehead takes it upon himself to repeatedly insert snippets of trivia, or small paragraphs for background or to add some colorful context to a character or a particular action that character is taking at that time. While that in itself is impressive, the overall delivery is somewhat of a staccato, giving a sporadic impression of affectation.

New York City is perhaps the city that's been canonized the most times, by the most writers, and it is obvious C.H. wants to join that group. His attempt is very good, and in fact is so native, that to an outsider like me who has never lived in NYC, and was not alive in the time period depicted in the novel, the net effect is somewhat less than spectacular.

I loved the writing, but the story itself was a bit underwhelming - ironically, given the strong writing and stronger provenance.

Thanks for NetGalley, Doubleday and to Colson Whitehead for generously providing an ARC, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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I was excited to read this book, as I've truly enjoyed the other two Colson Whitehead books I've read. Unfortunately for me, this book missed the mark. It felt a bit loose, like it rambled on a bit too much with just descriptions of NYC as well as the character inner monologue. It was edging towards being an enjoyable book. 

I don't typically mind when the main character is flawed and not straight forward likable. Slightly crooked Ray Carney wasn't well rounded enough. He was still kind of boring despite his forays into criminality. That made it overall difficult to care about where the story was going. Plus Freddy was just a dolt who I couldn't care less about either. Pepper might have been the most intriguing character to me, as well as Elizabeth. That may have been because there was a bit of mystery with those characters.

It also felt like it was very slow plot progression to me. I was honestly surprised that it was so scattered, it picked up at random points with no rhyme or reason that I could ascertain. Others may enjoy this book, but I'll be waiting for the next Colson Whitehead novel to try again.
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