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Song Yet Sung Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 5, 2008


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, February 5, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594489726
  • ASIN: B002GJU17K
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Escaped slaves, free blacks, slave-catchers and plantation owners weave a tangled web of intrigue and adventure in bestselling memoirist (The Color of Water) McBride's intricately constructed and impressive second novel, set in pre–Civil War Maryland. Liz Spocott, a beautiful young runaway slave, suffers a nasty head wound just before being nabbed by a posse of slave catchers. She falls into a coma, and, when she awakes, she can see the future—from the near-future to Martin Luther King to hip-hop—in her dreams. Liz's visions help her and her fellow slaves escape, but soon there are new dangers on her trail: Patty Cannon and her brutal gang of slave catchers, and a competing slave catcher, nicknamed The Gimp, who has a surprising streak of morality. Liz has some friends, including an older woman who teaches her The Code that guides runaways; a handsome young slave; and a wild inhabitant of the woods and swamps. Kidnappings, gunfights and chases ensue as Liz drifts in and out of her visions, which serve as a thoughtful meditation on the nature of freedom and offer sharp social commentary on contemporary America. McBride hasn't lost his touch: he nails the horrors of slavery as well as he does the power of hope and redemption. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

After a moving tribute to his Jewish mother (The Color of Water, 1996) and a novel about African American soldiers in World War II (Miracle at St. Anna, 2003), jazz musician and composer James McBride reaches even further into the past to explore the complexities and unpredictability of human nature against the backdrop of slavery. Based on actual historical figures, including Harriet Tubman, McBride’s novel starts slowly but soon develops into a suspenseful, action-packed adventure. Some critics objected to the blatant social criticism in Liz’s dreams of modern-day African Americans (described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “frankly offensive imagery and the polemic they clearly represent”), and a few cited flat characters and overly modern idioms. However, throughout this compelling and thought-provoking novel, McBride skillfully weaves his timely message that slavery can persist in many forms.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

More About the Author

James McBride is the author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller, The Color of Water. A former reporter for The Washington Post and People magazine, McBride holds a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from Oberlin College.

Customer Reviews

I am looking forward to reading other books by James McBride.
booknblueslady
James McBride has all of the hallmarks of a great writer: a love of story, a love of language and its rhythms, and the empathy to find the humanity in every character.
Seth B.
As the book draws to an end, you do feel as if you've spent time in another world.
James Hiller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on March 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is an amazing book of short stories from Eduardo Galeano called Book of Embraces (Norton Paperback). In one of the most amazing vignettes, "Celebration of the Human Voice 2", Galeano talks about life in a Uruguayan prison. Prisoners, unable to speak, invented their own communication system with fingers. Galeano writes, "When it is genuine, when it is born of the need to speak, no one can stop the human voice". I kept on thinking of that quote in James McBride's powerful, moving, amazing new book, "Song Yet Sung", for his characters, many of whom have no voice, still find ways to speak across the miles, and across the pages.

This novel starts with Liz, who is nicknamed the Dreamer, and her gift of seeing the future is well known and well feared in pre-Civil War Maryland. Captured by a notorious slave catcher named Patty Cannon, Liz meets an old woman who spins her own fantastic tale of "the Code", none of which makes sense either to us or Liz. Determined to escape from her attic confines, Liz makes a daring move and frees herself and everyone else in the attic, thus starting the rest of the story, which is a hunt for Liz.

Liz's former owner and secret paramour hires a succesful slave catcher himself, Denwood Long, unfortunately named "the Gimp", who has a haunted past himself. Along with him, Patty Cannon gathers her own posse of people to ruthlessly hunt Liz. There is even a backwoods "bogey man", called the Woolman, who comes into the story in a very believable and chilling way.

However, it's Liz where much of the theme of the story lies. It's in her dreams that began to intrigue me.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Phyllis T. Smith VINE VOICE on February 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to review this novel without resorting to superlatives. James McBride creates a complete world on the edge of the Maryland swamps, inhabited by slaves and plantation owners, lost souls, heroes, and dreamers. Liz, an escaped slave in desperate straits, injured and ruthlessly hunted, has psychic visions. Suspense builds, reaching a terrifying, violent climax that feels inevitable, in which the characters' ultimate choices are expressions of who they are.

The writing is so beautiful and true that it gives you goose bumps. Liz's dreams of the future exquisitely convey, through the eyes of a time traveler, the wonder and tribulations of contemporary American life. The characters transcend stereotypes and come alive. Even Patty, a female-slave catcher who embodies absolute evil, is unique, individual, and fascinating. The interactions between the desperate young slave who loves Liz, and his struggling, widowed female owner, decent people trapped in an inhuman situation, are full of nuance and complexity.

The theme of slavery, the paranormal element, and the sheer brilliance of the writing invite comparison with Toni Morrison's Beloved. This is a superb work of literature.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
James McBride writes like the superb jazz musician that he is; the words flow with the sinuous enchantment of an inspired saxophone lick.

McBride has opened a channel into the minds of slaves, slave catchers, and others along Maryland's eastern shore circa 1850. The swamps are choked with intrigue and suspense as runaways struggle to escape from the hands of their callous, greedy pursuers.

One slave hunter is a woman. McBride draws an incredible picture of evil that is somehow tricked out with a few admirable qualities. Very few, but enough to give readers a glimmer of our own conflicted emotions.

The central figure, Liz the Dreamer, possesses a tragic gift. She can see the future and she sees her people will still be enslaved, even today.

McBride has penned a work for the ages.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By M. P. McKinney on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
James McBride's Song Yet Sung is a great addition to the genre of African American literature. McBride weaves a complex story that begins with runaway slave, Liz Spocott. Liz is near death when she is captured by a slave trader. She finds herself imprisoned with a small group of slaves. In this group is a `woman with no name' who tries to explain the much guarded slavery `Code' to Liz, but Liz is confused by the woman's curious ranting and is overcome by dreams of the future. Liz inadvertently frees herself and the group of slaves. She continues to have strange dreams of tomorrow. The news of her dreams spread as she makes her way through the unfamiliar countryside. Liz's journey becomes entwined with many others: slaves unveiling parts of the Code to her; slave catchers seeking to capture her; and various members of the community that are unknowingly linked together through Liz.

McBride touches on the past, present, and future of our racially divided country. Song Yet Sung has a lyrical style that runs the full range of emotions and shows the complexity of the human spirit. This wonderfully written work will strike a chord with readers.

Reviewed by M. P. McKinney
APOOO BookClub
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Rhoad on February 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Normally I would not forgive an author for stretching reality to the point of this work - a civil war slave having dreams of Martin Luther King - but this author has a quality of writing that is almost too real. His characters have texture and heft, his scenes have smell and contour and you can believe that the dreamer longs for freedom so badly that she can "conjure" MLK. I have been reading slave naratives and the history of the war between the states since being a teenager, but NEVER has a book actually TAKEN me to that time period, scared me, made me grieve and make me feel such a total part of that sad history. This is an excellent tale told by a worthy author and he deserves to be put on your best book shelf - and shared with friends. Good job!
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