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The Celestial Jukebox: A Novel Hardcover – November 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760526
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A crotchety old Chinese-American man sweeps up brilliant pink blossoms as cats weave about his skinny legs, and dreams of a dance with a Honduran lady in white keds; a middle-aged farmer fights the onslaught of what passes for progress and examines what may be the end of his marriage; a young woman of color examines her past and seeks to capture the sad music of the Delta on film; a young Mauritanian man, freely come to Mississippi from Africa, finds both wonder and confusion in this loud, bright new land, as he longs after an old steel guitar in a pawn-shop window and falls further in love with the blues of the American kaffir. A no-longer-so-young mother fights her sense of invisibility in her family's life and is suddenly visible to someone forbidden. The damaged, fey Bebe Marie crafts her birdhouses of bottlecaps and fills her crumbling walls with images and poetry: "This is the orchard of abandoned dreams." Weaving it all together is music: the blues, jazz, the river of sound and emotion whose current flows worldwide, with unexpected effect. Shearer (The Wonder Book of the Air) has crafted a lyrical, floating world of an imagined Delta town that could not and does not exist, but perhaps should. Her touching characters and the beauty of her language overshadow any issue of pacing or self-conscious preciousness that threaten it, often rising to the level of prose poetry. A must for readers of modern serious fiction; a joy to the ear; a return to beauty in literature; it needs only a true spiritual dimension to achieve greatness.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sooner or later everyone around Madagascar, Mississippi, comes to the Celestial Grocery, run by Angus Chien, a second-generation Chinese man. The centerpiece of the grocery is the jukebox, never updated or repaired since its installation in 1938. Angus keeps coins on top of the machine to use, because you can press the button but you don't always get what you ask for. The various characters, whose stories eventually include a trip to the grocery, are used to disappointments. Boubacar, "fresh off the boat" from Mauritania, learns that America means "being enriched and robbed at the same time." Raine learns that the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood is not always so perfect. And Angus learns that there is more than one way to break a heart. The thread that holds all these people together is the music of Slim Harpo, Son House, Sol Hoopii, and Bob Dylan. Shearer (The Wonder Book of Air, 1997) has created nothing less than a gem in this tale of intertwining destinies. Elizabeth Dickie
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jamie C. Robertson on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Celestial Jukebox, Cynthia Shearer's second novel, is a journey into the fictitious town of Madagascar, Mississippi. The words Shearer chooses to tell this story are as heavy and slow to the tongue as the weight of the townspeople's daily rituals and the memory of their many disappointments. Shearer, of course, does this to bring about an authenticity that might not otherwise be so well conveyed. Like its people, Madagascar falls short of the glory of independence, and relies on the vices of others for survival-with one bright exception. In the corner of a grey, little store called the Celestial Grocery sits the Celestial Jukebox-a place where people have brought their sorrows, heartaches as well as their joys and triumphs since 1938.

Boubacar, an unlikely resident of Madagascar, is a 15 year old boy from Mauritania who visits the Celestial Grocery, and meets the grocery store's owner, Angus Chien, a cantankerous old man with a southern accent that seems mismatched with his oriental skintone and slanted eyes. He is the second generation of his Chinese family and the South is all he knows. Angus offers Boubacar a job and Boubacar quickly discovers the Celestial Jukebox. Never updated and never repaired, the Jukebox plays the heavenly classics from Sam Cooke, Slim Harpo and Bob Dylan to name a few and if you want to hear them, well, Mr. Chien keeps coins on top of the Jukebox so you can. It's one of those kind, little gestures he makes that lets us know he isn't always so crabby.

Shearer takes her time introducing us to the characters that make up Madagascar. Dean Fondren a man who knows where he is going to die, and his wife Alexis who doesn't think she wants to know such things. Raine is a middle-aged woman who can't help but reminisce when she hears Bob Dylan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CLV on March 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't believe there are only four reviews on this excellent book. This
is one of the best books I've ever read. It's one of those where it's almost
like watching a move while you're reading, the characters are so well drawn.
This book makes my heart feel full.
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By S. Lee on February 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Thomas Wolfe, when asked about his writing talent, said he knew he was great; "I know it too well to blush behind it," he said. Cynthia Shearer must fall into this category, for she has penned one of the greatest novels of the underclass and alien experience I've ever read. With colorful characters like a cross between Carson McCullers and John Irving, she spins a web of beauty that you can't help but fall into.
This atmospheric, tin-flashy novel of coastal Mississippi is spellbinding and unforgettable.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a game-changer for me. I've always associated "southern fiction" with Faulkner and kind of plantation writing, but here's a novel that is southern fiction and written from an immigrant perspective. This was incredible, refreshing, evocative and I was very moved by it.
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By Pearl Gates on January 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My impression was that this is a piece of art which Cynthia put a lot of love and time into. Each page can be savored slowly. Don't rush. Enjoy it. She didn't put out another book for years, which means to me it's about quality not quantity. Thanks Cindy.
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