Life is often affected by things and matters beyond our control. The Book of Harlan takes you by the hand and strolls you through his life showing each and every facet of life that created the man he became.
Beginning in 1917 with the young lives of Emma and Sam, life in the south during those times weren’t easy for people of color. It’s well documented and needs know the further explanation. This, however, sets the pace for the early life of Harlan. As his young parents try to find themselves, Harlan is reared by his doting grandmother and Pastoral grandfather. Harlan’s life takes it’s the first jolt in the early 1930’s when his steady world is rocked by the passing of his grandfather. The pace although slow and steady picks up steam here, as the remnants of life in the south fade when the young parents relocate with Harlan to Harlem.
In Harlem, Harlan discovers his first purpose and love for music. Afterward, the slant-eyed boy with easy disposition becomes the young man. Women, music, and booze quickly become Harlan’s favorite pastime. Before long, his days are filled with nothing other than a love for the three. After being dismissed from a standing gig, Harlan finds himself tossing back life a glass at a time when he meets the man who would become his best friend, Lizard.
Harlan’s life once again takes a dramatic turn when the group he’s formed is invited to the City of Lights, Paris. What Harlan perceives as a dream gig, Lizard, on the other hand, is hesitant and justifiably so. With charisma on his side, Harlan convinces him that it’s the offer of a lifetime. Yet neither of the young men know it, will become a catalyst in their young lives.
McFadden has weaved a tale of undying love and affection that will not only pull at your heartstrings but will also enlighten and inform. This story not only details the hardships and life of a musician but also one of a man clearly affected by the times. The characters of this story were well defined and encapsulated me in the jazz and historical moments. I certainly look forward to reading more works by this author.