Something I’d like to read more of this year is diverse books of any kind. And while there are plenty on my TBR, I couldn’t resist an interesting new release. Enter Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast a Shadow.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) How far would you go to protect your child?
Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by resurgent racism, segregation, and expanding private prisons, our narrator knows Nigel might not survive. Having watched the world take away his own father, he is determined to stop history from repeating itself.
There is one potential solution: a new experimental medical procedure that promises to save lives by turning people white. But in order to afford Nigel’s whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few Black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly surreal hoops–from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups–in an urgent quest to protect his son.
This electrifying, suspenseful novel is at once a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. Writing in the tradition of Ralph Ellison and Franz Kafka, Maurice Carlos Ruffin fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.
We Cast a Shadow is one of the most original debuts I’ve read in a while. It did remind me quite a bit of both Get Out and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, in that it’s a clever and effective satire on race. And, like Get Out (or The Handmaid’s Tale), this book is definitely a little bit terrifying in that it’s not quite as unbelievable as it should be. I was drawn into the story instantly, and had a hard time putting it down. Mostly.
This did not seem like a debut novel at all. It was incredibly well-written and honestly felt like the product of an experienced writer. I was really impressed, not just by the writing, but also the story. I thought it was a very effective satire; it was interesting and far-fetched, but also had a pretty clear point. I thought the juxtaposition of a modern world with ideas of racism we typically believe are a product of the past was incredibly clever.
I will say that, while I liked the story, it did start to lose me about halfway through. I was so invested in the beginning of the story, but that started to wear off when I wanted it to pick up even more. For me, the first chapter packed a huge impact, and the rest of the book didn’t quite measure up. Still, I do think We Cast a Shadow is a great book that has the potential to be an important part of our discussion on racism.
★★★★☆ – If you’re looking for a unique, diverse adult book to read, We Cast a Shadow is it. I enjoyed the writing and the satire, and thought it was a really interesting read. Fans of Get Out will definitely like this one!
We Cast a Shadow will be available in bookstores January 29. You can preorder a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose We Cast a Shadow as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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