Cover Image: Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

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Member Reviews

1960s, African-American-history-fiction, criminal-acts, NYC, cultural-exploration*****

Whatever anyone else thinks of Whitehead or his material, it is a given that whatever he writes will draw the reader in all the way to the end. And the way he makes the characters come alive is astounding. It's been a while since I've read one of his books, but that was life getting in the way not disinterest. Excellent read.
I requested and received a free temporary ebook copy from Doubleday Books, Doubleday via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Colson Whitehead once again gives his readers an unforgettable story, transporting his audience to Harlem through rich description and a cast of characters you both love and shake your head at. As a fan of all of Whitehead’s work, Harlem Shuffle is another excellent read.
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A furniture store owner in early 1960's Harlem, Ray Carney is both straight-- a legit, ambitious, educated entrepreneur-- and bent-- an occasional dealer in stolen goods and dubious enterprise.  A devoted husband and father, a loyal friend and rescuer to his hapless, n’er-do-well cousin Freddie, Ray is haunted by a childhood that left him with something to prove. When the story opens, Ray’s “only slightly bent when it comes to being crooked.” But as the story progresses, the bend deepens as Ray’s ambitions and loyalties, resentments and rationalizations grow.  “It was a betrayal of certain principles, sure, a philosophy about achieving success despite—and to spite—men like these... condescending … types and [their] lapdog buddies. But these were new times. The city is ever-changing, everything and everyone must keep up or fall behind.” He becomes a striver who’s not too particular about the means to that end or about the payback when he or loved ones are thwarted or threatened. 

I love this novel. Whitehead makes the place, the period, and the characters come alive. It’s a nice balance of gritty and funny (Ray’s salesmanship and more than one hitman’s love of the latest in sofas and dinettes provide comic relief throughout).  And—no surprise to Whitehead’s fans—it is thoughtful and, at times, deeply moving. Take this, about witnessing a father verbally abuse his adult son: “There are things a parent can utter to a child that should not be heard by others. Verdicts and spiky assessments, pettiness masquerading as principle and magnified by time, grudges that have taken root in the bones. A witness can render these things indelible and real in a way that they wouldn’t be if there were no one else around. No, it’s best not to hear your grown friend talked to the way [that father] addressed his son. The humiliation splashes everywhere. You’ll get it on you and it’ll become your own bad time, the bloody resurrection of your own childhood sadnesses.”  

There’s no genre that’s off limits to Colson Whitehead. Bring on that Edgar Award nomination!
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I enjoyed reading about The Nickle Boys and that is why I jumped at the chance to preview Colson Whitehead's newest creation.

Historical fiction is my jam and I was looking forward to experiencing the famed streets of Harlem during the early 1960s. The surroundings, the dealings, and the brewing emotional states of the people within that community at the time were indeed represented . . . the portrayals of daily lives and frustrations are vivid and palpable.

I can certainly appreciate the effort, skill, and research that went into the overall architecture of this novel, but unfortunately, I was not able to fully connect with this story or its characters.

To form your own opinion . . . copies are available for pre-order. The official release date is currently set for September 14, 2021.

I'd like to thank the author, NetGalley, and Doubleday for allowing me to read an advanced copy of Harlem Shuffle for an honest review.
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3.5 stars - Harlem Shuffle is the first novel I've read from Colson Whitehead so I was really excited to receive an ARC from NetGalley. I loved the vivid descriptions of Harlem in the early 60s. The first section took me awhile to get into his writing style and keep track of all the players. Carney's story picks up from here and you get a deeper understanding of his decision making. I couldn't stop reading once it hit 1964. If the first part of the book would've been more focused I'd give it 4 stars.
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Firstly, thanks to NetGalley for the pleasure of reading something I normally would not have picked up! I'm not the most eloquent reviewer but I'll try.

Ray Carney grew up motherless in NY in the 50s in the shadows of his crooked father.  Straddling the two worlds between the crooked and the straight roads, as an adult he continues to walk the narrow ledge between the two. He's trying to do right by his growing family yet still drawn to the shady side through the misguided, yet deep affection for his cousin and his desire to have rather than just want.

This reads like the script of a film noir movie, so much so that I kept hearing a film narrator's voice the entire time I was reading this. Whitehead paints a picture of Harlem & NY in the 60s, prior to gentrification, so vividly you feel as if you're walking the streets as you read. If you grew up in the NYC area in the 50s & 60s like I did, you knew some of these characters and this place well. 

It took me quite awhile to get into this, it takes giant steps forward & then reminds you, for seemingly no reason, of something you just read in a previous chapter. But, I began to like this more and more. Carney is such a likable character and as I reached the halfway point I began to appreciate the narrative and was able to get into  the rhythm of the story & it became a page turner. 

I wish Goodreads allowed half stars as this, for me, was a 3.5 but not quite a 4.0 read for me. However, I will be reading more from Colson Whitehead.
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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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