Jefferson County Library
Jefferson County, Washington
This year's Adult Winter Read is The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, a novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them.
In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.
As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.
Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.
James McBride is an author, musician, and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and explored McBride’s search for identity as the son of a white, Jewish woman and a black man. It is considered an American classic and is read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna was translated into a major motion picture, directed by American film icon Spike Lee. It was released by Disney/Touchstone in September 2008. James wrote the script for Miracle at St. Anna and co-wrote Spike Lee's 2012 Red Hook Summer. His novel, Song Yet Sung, was released in paperback in January 2009. His novel The Good Lord Bird, about American revolutionary John Brown, is the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction and has been adapted by Ethan Hawke and Jason Blum into a Showtime series bearing the same name.