Discover James McBride’s FIVE-CARAT SOUL

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Our new Igloo Book Buzz selection is FIVE-CARAT SOUL, the new story collection from James McBride, published by Riverhead Books on Tuesday, September 26.  This represents the first new fiction from McBride since his last novel, THE GOOD LORD BIRD, which won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction.  He is also the author of two other bestselling novels, a James Brown biography, and his #1 bestselling memoir, THE COLOR OF WATER: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.   In FIVE-CARAT SOUL, McBride writes stories with humor and insight, about how we struggle to understand who we are in a world we don’t fully comprehend. 

Jake Morrissey

Riverhead Books Executive Editor Jake Morrissey edited this book and says, “As James McBride is both an extraordinary writer and a talented musician, it was fascinating working with him on FIVE-CARAT SOUL to help discover the melody in the collection itself, harmonizing and counterpointing the stories, and finding the right tones for his characters. The result is a terrifically readable, even musical, riff on identity and humanity.”

When McBride was asked what it’s like to write stories instead of a novel, he responded:  “Writing a short story is like picking up a 747 and flinging it into the air. You heave it skyward and hope it flies.  Except it’s a heavy item to pick up. Novels give you a runway to get started. You have the space to gather speed and get it rolling before it eases off the ground. Short stories involve a lot more muscle. They’re harder to do. You have to engage the reader and keep them engaged.”

Credit: Chia Messina

Looking at the characters in FIVE-CARAT SOUL and their lives on the page, McBride says, “I’m every one of those characters. I’m the talking animals. I’m the toy collector. I’m the kid who thinks Abraham Lincoln is my dad. I’m all of them.  You have to be all those characters if you want them to be strong enough to get up and walk across the room.”

What draws the stories in this collection together? McBride says, “The stories are drawn together by my desire to show we are more alike than we are different. We all want the same thing: love, family, comfort, comedy. The stories are meant to be funny and illuminating. They’re relief from a world that doesn’t seem to be working well. That’s why I wrote them. I wanted relief. I needed an out, and they gave me one. They allowed me to see the possibility of the good and understanding that humans are capable of. If I didn’t have the desire to feel or see that, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.”


Posted: September 26, 2017