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The Residue Years Hardcover – August 20, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Jackson’s poetic prose is a joy to read even as the relationship between Grace Thomas and her oldest son, Champ, falls to pieces, along with their lives, in their Portland, Oregon, ghetto homes. Grace, just released from a drug rehab program, is placed in a dismal, furnished apartment and instructed to find work. Not an easy task for a middle-aged African American woman with little education, a spotty employment record, and a felony conviction. Her crime? Collecting state child support in two states. It was the only way she could feed herself and her three sons, even with a pittance-paying job. Champ, aware of his mother’s sacrifices and, sadly, her addictions, wants only the best for her. But his resources and options are also limited. Jackson carries the main theme—options—gracefully throughout the Thomases’ story, as Grace and Champ each tell their tale of facing ever-changing realities. The ways mother and son grapple with social judgment and limited choices are provocative and timely in view of the current American cultural focus on personal responsibility. --Donna Chavez

Review

“[A] powerful debut... full of impossible hope... Jackson's prose has a spoken-word cadence, the language flying off the page with percussive energy... There is warmth and wit, and a hard-won wisdom.” ―Roxane Gay, The New York Times Book Review

“A fresh new voice in fiction.” ―O, The Oprah Magazine

“Jackson's poetic prose is a joy to read... The ways mother and son grapple with social judgment and limited choices are provocative and timely.” ―Booklist

“Completely gripping... Beautifully written and sad and hopeful in a way that aches.” ―Portland Mercury

“Authenticity and a rhythmic prose propel [this] debut novel.” ―Time Out New York

“I was touched by characters whose lives were often as real for me as my memories of growing up. The language invented to tell their stories engages, challenges, clarifies the American language, claiming it, enlarging it.” ―John Edgar Wideman, author of Fanon, Philadelphia Fire, and Brothers and Keepers

“In this raw heartwreck of a novel, every bit of personal wisdom is hard-won. Here is Grace, mother of Champ: 'Some people are latecomers to themselves, but who we are will soon enough surround us.' It's a searing claim and prophecy about lives severely tested. The author is entirely persuasive, such that Grace and her sons, given vivid voice, are one of the fictional families I have cared about most.” ―Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories

“The language in this book is as gut-wrenching as it is stunning, at once an elegy and an anthem. The Residue Years is a story about doing what you must until you can do what you want. But most of all, it is about all the sacrifices we're willing to make for love.” ―Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze

“It's so tough to write beautifully about ugly things, but Mitchell S. Jackson makes it look easy. The Residue Years is the story of a man and woman trying their best to overcome the enormous hurdles life has put in front of them, two portraits of the courageous battle to simply do one's best. This is a memorable, powerful novel and Mitchell S. Jackson is a genuine talent.” ―Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver

“Mitchell S. Jackson writes brilliant sentences, so full of the energy and beauty and tragedy of life. The Residue Years is an amazing first novel that also introduces an important new voice in literary fiction.” ―Michael Kimball, author of Big Ray

“I know these characters well: Champ with his swagger and invincibility, doing all he can to protect his fiercely beating heart. Grace, held together with polish and a prayer, trying to make a way when there isn't one. Both of them longing, for a better life, a clear path out of their predicaments. I know the language they speak: voices redolent of struggle and the South displaced to our country's far northwestern corner: Portland, Oregon. A wrenchingly beautiful debut by a writer to be reckoned with, The Residue Years marks the beginning of a most promising career.” ―Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped

“There will be temptation to put Mitchell Jackson's formidable debut novel in a convenient box but a true reading defies segregation. The Residue Years speaks in melodies about a grim world you think you know yet likely never inhabited. See the face of systemic racism, gentrification, failed hoop dreams, and a misguided drug war that makes criminals of victims. Feel the breaking heart. And also be lifted up; this fantastic novel speaks ultimately of love.” ―Robb Todd, author of Steal Me For Your Stories

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1St Edition edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620400286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620400289
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Residue Years is the gripping debut novel by Mitchell S. Jackson that explores the depths one will go to in order to make their family whole again. We are introduced to Champ and Grace through their narrated alternate chapters. Grace is fresh out of rehab and trying to remain sober. Her reason for being sober is to someday get her two younger sons back. Champ has the same idea in mind of getting his family together again by way of buying back the only home they have ever lived in together.

The Residue Years is a difficult book to review because it has many themes and issues it brings to light. Mitchell S. Jackson brilliantly expresses the plight of many urban families that try and try to do their best(even if by less than legal means) and still never seem to get anywhere. It is evident during Champ's chapters that he is intelligent and is even teased as being a college boy. His goal of getting a house leads him on a path that is foreshadowed in the beginning of the novel. Although I knew where his profession as a drug-dealer would lead him, I needed to find out how.

Grace is as equally intriguing as her son Champ is. By using first-person Jackson is able to really allow readers insight to her thought processes. We can truly understand her struggle with staying straight and what it means for her if she fails. I wanted so much for her to do well and overcome her obstacles and really redeem herself as a mother.

On many levels, although the characters are in an urban setting, their goals are not unlike others all across America. It's a pretty universal idea to want a family that's together living in a home that is their own. For Champ, owning this house means so much. Enough so that he risks his future to obtain it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was unable to put this book down until I had read it all - although there were times when I simply had to do just that as the story is so intense. A young man and his mother tell their stories, with a deft interweaving of the 'call and response' that reminds one of how many stories reflecting the talents and experiences of African-American are sung in this manner - but the stories they tell are so graphic in their words that one intuits the outcome before the end of the story, while wishing so hard that the ending might be different. Mitchell Jackson spared us from none of the realities of his world, without even attempting to lay 'blame' for living them. The stories were what they were - and his victory over all of that reality is a challenge to anyone who might reason that "society" let him down and try to assign guilt to someone else, is refreshing and absolute! He has received myriad well-deserved awards for his first work = and I am anxiously awaiting his next literary gift to us all!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The power in Jackson's novel is its ability to portray a family unit that at first appears unlike yours or mine. Yet, as you embark on being pulled into Jackson's novel, it is hard not to identify with this family. They are beautiful, ambitious, and flawed, like the families we are all a part of. Set during the backdrop of the crack epidemic, Jackson presents to us two protagonists whose nicknames, Champ and Grace, foretell a classical allegory of success, hope, and hubris. At times raw, or unfiltered, the Residue Years will compel you to read on: if only to be sure this isn't a story of someone from your past. It is important to be aware of these stories. Jackson's work will be always be a relevant read, at least until the war on poverty is finally waged. It is cannonical literature in the present.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I decided to read this because it was a local author using Portland as the background for the novel. At first, at the very first, I was put off some by the use of jargon and what some might call street talk. But then I realized that the author, unlike so many others, managed to fit the jargon into context so that even me, an old white guy from the burbs could comprehend and enjoy. The more I read the more impressed I was, as the characters filled out and their interelationships made them seem more and more real to me.
Without giving anything away, I realize now that I need to re-read at least the first part of the book in order to understand Grace, the mother's, original motivation that led to her decline. I seem to have missed that. I suspect that's my fault and not the author's.
If you're interested in urban America, particularly in such a white city as Portland, you'll likely enjoy this book. High schoolers should read and discuss it.
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Format: Hardcover
THE RESIDUE YEARS doesn't waste any time getting started. The characters appear fully formed on the page, seeming to bypass all need for character development. The streets are paved around the reader, familiar more for their lack of definition than for specific characteristics. All that remains to pull the reader completely into author Mitchell S. Jackson's world is the ever-pressing reminder of rain, which never dissipates completely, even when the sun is shining.

The story focuses on Grace, a mother who has just been released from court-ordered rehab for crack cocaine, and her eldest son, Champ, a former hotshot on the high school basketball team who has since become a dealer. With Grace newly sober and back in her sons' world, she is looking to reclaim her former life as a loving mother, breadwinner and devout believer. But the walls of her world are confined by her past: her halfway house is far from the minimum wage job she finally secures, and there doesn't seem to be a way forward when even careful planning and penny pinching doesn't pay off. Champ, on the other hand, has been waiting for his mother's release, carefully stashing money to buy the house they lived in when he was a child, still standing in a gentrifying area of Portland.

Both have the best intentions, but Jackson isn't writing a made-for-TV story of triumph against the odds. Grace and Champ are lovable, warm-blooded and, at their best, intensely insightful. Champ reads like a still-rising star, full of joie de vivre and immaturity. His confidence and desire to do right are irresistible, if ultimately markers of naivety. Grace, though more worn down, also feels exceptional. She takes herself seriously as a woman conquering her former life, and her seriousness commands respect.
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