REVIEWED BY JONATHAN DURBIN
The unnamed narrator of Thomas's sweeping debut is a 35-year-old African-American father of three struggling to find a way to keep his family afloat while refusing to compromise his artistic leanings and dealing with the attendant stresses that make living in New York City so hard. His kids' private school tuition is due, his marriage has begun to implode, and he's lost in remembrances of his Boston past and wild-child friends, some of whom have grown into full-fledged lunatics. To make matters worse, he's tempted to drink. "Someone once said ... while extending his index finger, 'A normal person's soul is like this.' He bent it and said, 'The soul of an alcoholic is like this. Drinking makes the alcoholic feel that his soul,' straightening his finger again, 'is like this.'" Throughout, the narrator's hard-bitten realism and Thomas's blues-dirge-y storytelling instincts keep the narrative thrumming. Even at its darkest, the novel's brooding doesn't detract from its intellectual value and emotional core: a jazzy, complicated literary work.