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Grand River and Joy (Sweetwater Fiction: Originals) Paperback – January 14, 2010

18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Sweetwater Fiction: Originals
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (January 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472034294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472034291
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,148,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Messer has had fiction and nonfiction published in Glimmer Train Stories, North American Review, Colorado Review, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Another Chicago Magazine, killingthebuddha.com, Lost, and others. Awards include an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in prose, an Illinois Arts Council literary award for creative nonfiction, and prizes in Moment magazine's short fiction competition, Chicago Public Radio's Stories on Stage competition, and the Jewish Cultural Writing Competition of the Center for Yiddish Culture. She has had two residencies at Ragdale, an arts colony, and been a finalist in the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren competition, the Writers@Work fellowship competition, and Chicago's Guild Complex nonfiction competition. Grand River and Joy is her first novel.

Learn more about her at her website: www.susanmesser.net. Every Wednesday morning, she posts to her blog "The Discomforts of Diversity," which you can find at http://ethnicwords.blogspot.com/

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sharala on July 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A blockbuster about blockbusting. Best novel I've read in years. If you liked _Middlesex_, you'll love this one! It explores the ambiguities and disconnects in the postwar Detroit experience of white flight to the suburbs, and illustrates, through the experiences of two interacting Jewish and African-American families, what happened in the Motor City. Meticulously researched in historical detail, it sheds light on a dark subject from a human perspective. Gripping characterization, scene-setting and dialogue. I'm writing this from the perspective of a life-long Detroiter who still lives downtown, and who is sharing in the struggle of a city to reinvent itself after economic devastation. If you want to know what happened to Detroit, read this book. I did -- in twelve hours. Couldn't put it down.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marcia Pavlou, Ph.D. on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After a two week reflection on Susan Messer's Grand River and Joy, the words "wisdom" and "nuance" describe my most enduring impressions. The book describes the events leading up to the Detroit race riots of the mid 1960s. Each scene is a gem in and of itself, defining a sparkling whole of texture and complexity. The narrative is crisp, vivid, funny, poignant. There is no judgment here. The reader can feel the weave of personal history and struggle for each character, each ethnic and racial group, and for the historical period as a whole. With courage, Messer characterizes both racial groups, along with differences of generation and economic standing. The reader feels for each character, could be each character. The author's wisdom and maturity shine through the narrative, as she describes ways in which individual lives, marriages, and racial struggles are a symphony of good impulses and bad, weakness and strength, hope and desperation. While defining a particular historical event, Messer's viewpoint could usefully inform a much broader set of issues. In our time, beset with a search for simple answers and with a tendency to demonize and oversimplify the other, this book shows a way. The characters also expand beyond the historical events, as they embody the messy process of personal evolution and growth in a complex world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arbor Annie on May 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This wonderfully written book gets everything about Detroit in the 60's right. It does not come off as a history book but gives life to a pivotal period in a complicated city. It is hard for me to say if non-Detroiters would appreciate this novel since I did grow up there, but I believe it stands on it's own.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James L. Poznak on August 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a grand, joyful novel. Susan Messer is a superb artist, using the written word like a skilled painter or sculptor. The finely crafted, entertaining story that Susan has woven is obviously sourced from the deep well of her most heartfelt feelings. Susan has breathed such life into her protagonists that I came to view them not as acquaintances, but as dear friends. The tale irresistibly carried me to its fateful, ironic, and wistful conclusion. Perhaps most impressively, Susan gives voice to characters of the racial and economic underclass that is, frankly, at least the equal of Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Wintner on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With all the contemporary fiction around that's made of sticks and straw, it is a true pleasure to read a current novel that's made of bricks. Grand River and Joy is substantive rather than sensational; it is gritty rather than slick. Susan Messer's characters are real people--our relatives and neighbors. They seem to have walked right out of the Detroit of the 60s into the pages of the book. Though the story ostensibly revolves around race relations and the growing tensions of the period, Messer's characters struggle with fundamental, universal issues: how to relate to people who are different from you; how to cope with a changing world; how to maintain personal integrity despite your fear. Messer offers no simple or pat solutions to these issues, but her characters wrestle with them in the heroic manner of ordinary people and, if they are not transformed by their experiences, it is clear that they are the better for them. The book is nicely plotted and nuanced with subtle humor, and contains some very memorable scenes. I'd recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good, solid read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Josephine E. Franz on August 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As one who has lived in Detroit all my life, I thoroughly enjoyed Susan Messer's book. It describes the Jewish neighborhood I knew so well and the riots of the 60's that changed everything. It tells how an ordinary family faced the racial tensions in their neighborhood and business. It tells about the pain between people who thought they knew each other and then realized they didn't. They watch as their neighborhoods and city are torn apart. The confusion and hurt are so real. There are also lovely parts describing the blossoming of a mother into a community activist and the small sights of the pink hollyhocks in the alleys of Detroit. I recommend this story of a Jewish family facing the dramatic changes that faced Detroit in the 60's. It brought it back to me, so real. It's a wonderful thoughtful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Mary on August 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had the good fortune to meet the author of this book several years ago through mutual friends. When I recently heard she had a book out, I had to read it. And I am glad I did! It paints a very accurate picture of the turbulent 1960's, with ethnic and cultural character development. Susan Messer's style of writing is engaging, as she inserts parenthetical commentary that furthers the psychological understanding of the characters. This is a book that has historical significance along with good writing. It belongs on Oprah's list!
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