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"Captivating." вЂ”Jane Ciabattari, NPR Book Concierge: Best Books of 2015
"Incomparable charisma and verve." вЂ”The Root, Best Fiction of 2015
"Lean, mean, and moving." вЂ”Kirkus Reviews, Kirkus Prize nominee
Jabari AsimвЂ™s debut novel returns readers to Gateway City, the fictional Midwestern city first explored in his acclaimed short story collection, Taste of Honey. Against a 1970s backdrop of rapid social and political change, Only the Strong portrays the challenges and rewards of love in a quintessential American community where heartbreak and violence are seldom far away.
Moved by the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Lorenzo "Guts" Tolliver decides to abandon his career as a professional leg-breaker and pursue a life of quiet moments and generous helpings of banana pudding in the company of his new, sensuous lover. His erstwhile boss, local kingpin Ananias Goode, is also thinking about slowing downвЂ”but his tempestuous affair with Dr. Artinces Noel, a prominent pediatrician, complicates his retirement plans. Meanwhile, Charlotte Divine, the doctorвЂ™s headstrong protГ©gГ©e, struggles with trials of her own.
With prose that's sharp, humorous, and poetic, Asim skillfully renders a compelling portrait of urban life in the wake of the last major civil-rights bill. Massive change is afoot in America, and these characters have front-row seats.
This thoroughly entertaining and stylish crime novel from Asim (A Taste of Honey) is set in Gateway City, a fictionalized version of Asim's native St. Louis, during the 1970s. Thirty-five-year-old Lorenzo "Guts" Tolliver is the semi-retired "enforcer" for the gangster chieftain Ananias Goode. Guts, who now operates a fleet of taxicabs, has been in a three-year romance with Pearl Jordan, a gorgeous woman with ambitious dreams of owning her own dance studio. Though Pearl wants to get married, Guts is reluctant to tie the knot due to his violent and dangerous lifestyle. As a special favor, Goode assigns Guts to watch over the flashy baseball player Rip Crenshaw since Goode doesn't trust his replacement enforcer, Sharps, to take care of it. The author creates a flawed, complex, and likeable protagonist in Guts. A supernatural element adds another dramatic layer to this fast-paced narrative. As Goode and Guts take their final steps to go straight, the inevitable showdown with their past troubles and enemies plays out. Asim's impressive novel deserves favorable comparison to the works of Chester Himes and Walter Mosley. (May)
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