This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Long Division, Kiese Laymon
I really don’t think I can describe this book better than the first sentence on Amazon, so I’ll just quote it verbatim: “Kiese Laymon’s debut novel is a Twain-esque exploration of celebrity, authorship, violence, religion, and coming of age in Post-Katrina Mississippi, written in a voice that’s alternately funny, lacerating, and wise.” I loved Laymon’s writing style; the characters seemed genuine and unique. The book itself centers around Citoyen “City” Coldson, a young man growing up in Mississippi in 2013. City starts reading an apparently un-authored book called “Long Division” whose main character is ALSO called City Coldson, but this City is growing up in 1985. Between the story within a story and all the characters overlapping, there are sections of this that I had to read a couple of times to try to keep everything straight. It’s an inventive look at how a small Mississippi community has changed over the years, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, and how both City Coldsons try to solve their respective problems while simultaneously connecting to one another. (Sounds kind of far-fetched, I know, and in some places it feels a bit heavy handed, but with Laymon’s magnetic writing, you’ll be engaged enough to overlook those spots.)
I must say I heartily endorse this book as the Mississippi book on the 50Nifty list. The story itself could be feasible in another southern state, but as it stands it happens to be so connected to the history of the land and the place that it fits perfectly.