Genre: Adult Fiction, Satire, Humorous Fiction
First Released: 2021
Part of a Series: No
Call Number: FICTION MOTT
Find it: On our shelves (in regular and large print) or on Libby and Axis 360
In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
As these characters’ stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.
Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last 10 years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.
I read this book more than a month ago, and it has stayed with me. I was surprised by how funny a book about race in America could be. The main story revolves around an unnamed author going on a book tour and he is visited by a Black boy who appears to him at breakfast that only the author can see. The boy appears to him regularly throughout the story, while news reports of a police shooting of a Black child replay on a TV screen in the background. As the author continues on his book tour, conversations about race and history swirl around him. The author’s media trainer provides a hilarious contrast to the seriousness of the other events going on in the story. Mott finds a way to talk about race in a way that contemporary America doesn’t want to.
Alternating the chapters about the book tour is a story about a young Black boy named Soot. His life is changed when his father is killed by the police in front of him and his mother. Soot’s parents tried to protect him as much as possible by making him “invisible” and, thus, less likely to experience violence. Mott describes the generational trauma police brutality and institutional racism have had on Black communities in painstaking detail. This part of the book felt like the most personal, yet speaks of so many families’ trauma. What struck me was how movingly he writes about the damage done not only at the familial level but also what racism does to society. How does it affect communities when people are told they are a burden on the state?
I wanted to finish the book quickly to find out if Soot grew up to be the author, but the book is so creatively written I didn’t want to miss any details. Hell of a Book is an emotionally heavy read but worth it (and Nicolas Cage makes an appearance!) Highly recommended.