Books: The Fisher King

By Paule Marshall

Eight-year-old Sonny and his guardian, Hattie Carmichael, leave hardscrabble lives in Paris to attend a posthumous tribute in Brooklyn to his grandfather (and her former intime). In the 1950s, Sonny's grandfather found fame and temporary refuge from racism playing jazz in France; finally his hometown is giving him his due. But instead of a joyous reunion, Sonny encounters a multigenerational feud, which Marshall unfolds by moving deftly between present and past. If her narrative occasionally swerves into Young Adult territory, it's not at the sacrifice of complex characters or of her longstanding themes: the fundamental human desire to belong--to a place...

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