It doesn't seem possible, even now, that it could begin the way it begins, in the blank light of a Sunday afternoon in February, crossing the parking lot at the Mondawmin Mall on the way to Lee's Asian Grocery, my jacket in my hand, because it's warm, the sudden, bleary, half-withheld breath of spring one gets in late winter in Baltimore, and a black man comes from the opposite direction, alone, my age or younger, still bundled in a black lambswool coat with the hood up, and as he draws nearer I feel an unmistakable shock of recognition.If one of my writing students turned in a single sentence this long, we'd have a long talk about it. Nevertheless, that's the first sentence of this book. And here's what this novel is all about:
One afternoon, not long after Kelly Thorndike has moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, an African American man he doesn’t recognize calls out to him. To Kelly’s shock, the man identifies himself as Martin, who was one of Kelly’s closest friends in high school — who was skinny, white, and Jewish before his disappearance nearly twenty years before. After years of immersing himself in black culture, Martin says, he’s had "racial reassignment surgery," altering his hair, skin, and physiognomy to allow him to pass as African American. Unknown to his family or childhood friends, Martin has been living a new life ever since. Now, however, Martin feels he can no longer keep his new identity a secret; he wants Kelly to help him ignite a controversy that will help sell racial reassignment surgery to the world. Kelly, still recovering from the death of his wife and child and looking for a way to begin anew, agrees, and things quickly begin to spiral out of control.An interesting concept, that a grieving man "reconnects with a high-school friend who has undergone racial reassignment surgery." Let's see if it's a good story.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. Click here for today's Mister Linky.