The Celestial Jukebox
Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in
Pub Date: 03/25/2006
List Price: $24.95
The Celestial Jukebox
Set in the invented Mississippi Delta town of Madagascar, Cynthia Shearer's The Celestial Jukebox depicts a rural South dependent on agribusiness and the fruits of some less attractive forms of capitalism-gambling and other vices. Into this world comes Boubacar, a fifteen-year-old African boy joining friends from Mauritania already living in the area. They are new African blacks not especially noteworthy in a town filled with Chinese emigrants, African Americans within memory of slavery, and straggling members of the original white families of the area. Presiding over Madagascar is Angus, the second-generation Delta Chinese proprietor of the Celestial Grocery, and his vintage jukebox with its treasure of Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, and Wanda Jackson songs.
The ties that bind the lives in this community together are American roots music and the desire to make a home in the rural South. The purity and beauty of Cynthia Shearer's writing-like the purity of music that exists within this story, an imagined soundtrack of more than thirty songs-marks The Celestial Jukebox as that most rare book, a novel as historically expansive as it is intimate, filled with music, wisdom, and spontaneous joy.
Nothing less than a gem.
Perceptive and elegantly written.
Shearer has crafted a lyrical, floating world of an imagined Delta town that could not and does not exist, but perhaps should. . . . A must for readers of modern serious fiction; a joy to the ear; a return to beauty in literature.
Few novels offer such an array of characters and backgrounds . . . Shearer's great achievement is her development of characters. They're all credible, convincing human individuals. Shearer loves her characters in the same way that Dickens seemed to love his, and this love is conveyed to and shared by the readers . . . it was a pleasure to read this book. It is modest and unassuming with a straightforward, unadorned style that focuses on the characters.
Shearer may not have grown up in the Delta, but she definitely can write about it. Not only does she vividly portray the nuances of this Southern lifestyle, but she does so on a small-town scale.
—Kay O'Donnell, San Antonio Express-News
Shearer knows the blues, and she knows the Delta, but more importantly she knows the human heart. The Celestial Jukebox will make you laugh, and it will make you cry, and more than once it will make you want to jump up and shout. If you doubted Shearer could fulfill the expectations aroused by her previous novel, The Wonder Book of the Air, get ready to marvel. This new book flies even higher.
—Steve Yarbrough, author of Visible Spirits
A vivid, lyrical novel of jarring cultural diversity . . . With memorable characters, writing that glows, and even an imagined soundtrack, Shearer's new novel represents the best in current literary fiction.
With a good blues song, it's not the message of suffering that you celebrate, but the victory of the human spirit over pain and loss. So it is with Shearer's second novel . . . In The Celestial Jukebox, Shearer builds a story around her fictional community, the way its characters move together and apart, with the strength and generosity of a blues artist.