Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead ~ 3⭐

Genre: Black & African American Literary Fiction ~ Releases: September 14, 2021

REVIEW: Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead was my first novel by this author. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner two times in a row. When I got the chance to read Harlem Shuffle for review, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I wanted to read it. However, I was disappointed. 

This novel was one crime after another. The story didn’t have any cohesiveness. It all seemed pretty random to me. The main character was Ray Carney. His life style was handed down and learned from his father. Ray had two sides. The good side was a family man and a furniture store owner. I would have liked to know more about his wife and family but, they were mostly in the background. Sadly, I think that is how he liked it. 

I wish I could say the writing was beautiful but, I was often confused with all of the slang and talk of Harlem. This just adds one more to the pile of books I don’t care for by male authors.

He was very good at setting the atmosphere of the book. I’m sure many people will love this book. It was just not my cup of tea. Those that love hard crime novels will most likely love this book. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from #Netgalley and #DoubledayBooks. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 

SYNOPSIS: From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

“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. 

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes. 

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs? 

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.

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