Harlem Shuffle Book Review

Harlem Shuffle

A Novel

By: Colson Whitehead

Doubleday Books


Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

Publish Date 14 September 2021


50 Book ReviewsProfessional Reader

First I would like to thank Doubleday for choosing me as one of the people to review this book.

Good Reads Synopsis:

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

Book Review:

I so wanted to really enjoy this book but unfortunately I didn’t. I gave this book 2.75 stars and rounded it up to 3 stars on good reads.

This book is about a man named Ray and it goes through several years of his life in Harlem. He owns a used furniture store that he bought or inherited from a former employer. Business is slow at the beginning and he has to go to people who are saling off things either because they money or a family member has passed away. He is so worried about following in his footsteps. He has a wife who is pregnant and a daughter. He does want to do better by them. His in-laws really don’t like him because he is a furniture sales man even though he owns his own store.

As the story goes on it tells about him always being there for his cousin who is constantly in trouble. He allows his cousin to do this to him. This causes him to actually follow in his father’s footsteps.

Those were some of the things I didn’t like. Now the things I learned and were interesting. Harlem is a rough area and blacks had it rough even in this area. Cops and drug lords or gang leaders required you to make a weekly pay off to keep your business safe. Learning about Harlem and how people survived and interacted back then was an eye opener.

In conclusion, I like his writing style because once I opened up the book I was able to read quickly. The wanting to open the book was the problem it just didn’t draw me to it. I enjoyed his book The Underground Railroad so I will continue to read his books.

Published by debbierpayne

Mother of six and Grandmother of 7. I enjoy reading, sewing, cooking, and crocheting. I am an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

One thought on “Harlem Shuffle Book Review

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