The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store: A Chevron Ross Book Review

By June 21, 2024No Comments

There are so many interesting characters in James McBride’s novel that it’s hard to know where to start this review. So I’ll begin with the bare bones of a plot that draws them together. The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store is a small business in Chicken Hill, a poor corner of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1930s. Justice and fair play are strangers there because the police and the courts belong to the White culture. So when a White man’s indiscretion results in the death of a Jewish woman and the banishment of a Black youngster to a sinister mental institution, Chicken Hill’s residents must go outside the law to create their own justice.

Now to the characters. The town doctor is a White supremacist whose ancestor arrived in America on the Mayflower after serving as personal slave to China’s emperor. There’s Moshe Ludlow, who gets rich booking musical legends like Lionel Hampton and Chick Webb into his theatres. Or Nate Love, an elderly Black man trying to overcome his dark past. And Dodo, an adolescent boy who lost his hearing when his mother’s stove exploded, forcing him to hide in the grocery store to avoid a special school for mental defectives. McBride’s breezy narration gives depth to each of them without slowing the pace of his story.

The book is a parade of wonderful moments, such as an amusing conversation about the town’s network of water pipes; Dodo’s efforts to communicate with an epileptic boy using only facial expressions and gestures; and a woman’s use of sweet potato pie to set up a dramatic escape attempt involving some of the most unlikely people you can imagine.

As magnificent as James McBride’s novel is, I must limit my rating to three stars due to its sprinkling of profanity, offensive words, scatological references, and elements of sexual abuse. Nevertheless, the quality of his narration has earned The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store a permanent slot on my bookshelf.

Featured by Chevron Ross

Follow these links for more about the Chevron Ross novels

     Weapons of Remorse    The Seven-Day Resurrection   The Samaritan’s Patient

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