Hold It ‘Til It Hurts (Johnson)

There’s a writing adage that dictates that you shouldn’t hold anything back, that there’s no use saving any ideas for a next book. T Geronimo Johnson certainly listened. As if the story of a black soldier saddled with name Achilles returning from the war in Afghanistan to the white mother who adopted him isn’t enough, Johnson has him end up in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina to find his (also adopted) brother, Troy. So, yes, Achilles has to go to New Orleans to find Troy.

Despite the weight of the plot summary, Johnson makes it work. His sense of detail as well as his skill at making his characters fully human (which is to say, not always likable) makes this, his first novel (and a nominee for the 2013 PEN / Faulkner Award), quite engaging.

Johnson has a lot of ideas on his mind – about race, about power, about history, about war. This is a book you’ll want to discuss.

Note to Coffee House Press: Find a better proofreader!

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