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The Last Block in Harlem Paperback – July 13, 2010
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“Herz has brought us a huge heart into whose chambers we can peer and see the many compartments that make it pulse and continue to keep the body of society alive. A great book for both the young and the old, The Last Block in Harlem will surprise you and make you remember just how much we all need each other to survive.” —Book Room Reviews
“This story does have an extremely perplexing psychological twist that you will need to pay close attention to. The Last Block in Harlem is a thought-provoking debut novel by Christopher Herz.” —Urban Reviews
"I've never been to Harlem, but I feel like I have after reading this book. The author has a rare talent for recreating the sights, sounds, and smells of the neighborhood, (not to mention realistically depicting the characters who populate it)." —Karen McQuestion, author of A Scattered Life and The Edgewood seriesA Visit to St. Nicholas Place
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Top Customer Reviews
The narrator is faces a time in his life where he can no longer stand the life he's created. It is far from the ideals of where he thought he would be, and living one more day in his unfullfilling life is just too painful. His response to his self-imposed dillema is surprising and keeps you turning the pages. The story unfolds as he faces life and all of the issues that keep people from executing the life they envisioned: betrayal, obsession, additiction, revenge.
The book is also a social commentary on gentrification. No solutions offered just an example of the difficulty in finding common ground on the issues of economic revitalization and racial integration.
If you are looking for an intelligent read where the characters in the book take you on an emotional journey where the love inspires, the injustice angers, the stupidity infuriates, and the misunderstandings make you wish you could jump in the pages and set some people straight, give it a read...I guarantee you'll be at pg 100 before you know it.
The plot is that an advertising executive loses interest in his job and takes on cleaning his block in Harlem as a mission. He then gets caught up in the publicity and the effort becomes politicized so the yuppies can move in. He then spearheads a compaign to "take the block back" for its poor and zany characters.
If only the plot were that straight-forward. Instead it rambles. For a while the author (as narrator) begins to tell the stories of the people he encounters. We are constantly reminded that people like to tell him things. That is only one of the many redundancies throughout. The people are interesting and their stories compelling, but he soon drops that aspect. He then gets into the politics of cities and then "mission" or purpose in life. His efectiveness spirals up and down in the narrator's effectiveness and then his sanity. The author also throws in some of his personal philosophy such as junk food is bad for your health. Perhaps the most glaring "miss" of the book is like the equation that a conservationist is the person who already ahs his house i the woods, the narrator never sees that he is the first yuuppie in the neighborhood as he tries to keep all others out. This makes the whole proposition disingenuous.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the book is the dialogue. It is okay to suspend belief in novels, after all, they are fiction. However, to get through this book, the reader has to suspend all reality in the way people speak. Every single character has deep insight into life and what the narrator needs in his life,.Read more ›
I was impressed by this author's ambitious take on many universal themes, including finding purpose in one's own existence, cultivating a nostalgic sense of community in a world where we are almost programmed for isolation, and exorcising the ghosts of the past to create your present and future.
The author creates a naive, idealistic narrator whose passion to preserve his idea of his one block in Harlem nearly ruins the very community he hopes to save. It made me wonder who was the bigger threat: the well-meaning do-gooder or "the man" hoping to gentrify the neighborhood. I appreciated that these blurred lines weren't too heavy handed.
The backstory of how the book was printed and initially sold person-to-person makes the book feel more intimate - as if we are privy to one of the narrator's neighbors telling us a story on a stoop. Perhaps that merely plays into that universal theme of us wanting to feel like we're a part of something, a community, a legacy.
My only issue is with the ending which baffled me. (no spoilers here)
But the book succeeds in creating a well-drawn world full of colorful characters facing their own demons and battles that are universally relate-able, regardless of neighborhood.
This is a very promising first novel!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved this book from start to finish. Made me laugh and made me cry. Great book, could really picture myself therePublished 6 months ago by jen24
It was a captivating from the beginning though the storyline seemed a become disjointed as the story progressed. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Maurice A.
From the intricate details of life in Harlem to characters that are incredibly believable, Herz crafts a story of love, compassion, passion, and, ultimately, overcoming. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Scott J. Hamilton
I found the book not to ring true. The author is so self absorbed. Everything is about him. I lived at one time 3 blocks from the scenes he writes of and just about the same... Read morePublished 17 months ago by brooklyn
This book did make me think about my own neighborhood and how much it has changed over the past few years - what do those changes mean for the people who have lived there for... Read morePublished 18 months ago by A. Christiano
The beginning was a little slow and some parts contained too many details or "background". However, once the conflict was established and the rising action began it flowed... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Tyvonn W.