Title: Hell of a Book
Author: Jason Mott
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Dutton Books
Date Published: June 29, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org
In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
As these characters’ stories build and build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.
Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists it truly becomes its title.
The name really does say it all …
I read Hell of a Book after seeing it top many reader’s favourites of 2021 lists and was so glad I allowed myself to be “influenced”.
This book about a book within a book explores, very personally, what it means to be Black in America. While hitting the reader with a strong emotional punch, Jason Mott pairs his story with witty, smart aleck humour and a bit of mystery wondering how the two storylines will combine – the author of the book and a young Black boy, both unnamed.
While I loved the commentary here about being seen, being heard, and being unnamed, I found myself a little confused by the “fever dream” aspects near the end of the novel and would’ve loved a bit more clarity. However, learning that this is a semi-autobiographical novel about the author’s own processing, I understand why he went in this direction. Healing and processing are not linear. Further, there are no answers to be had here, no “wrapping this up neatly” and to do so, would’ve diminished the whole.
Be prepared to be moved. Great book club book to open up some conversations.
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