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Sweetbitter, a Book Review

 A copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Book:

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

Gibbons's first novel takes place in east Texas in 1910 during the time of white rule-not by law but by lynch mob. Amid the suffocating racism and fear, half-Choctaw, half-white Reuben Sweetbitter and Martha Clarke, a white woman, fall in love. Forbidden to be seen together, they escape to the town of Harriet, where an influential friend of Martha helps them settle down and raise a family. Atypical of love stories, this realistic work maintains a historical perspective in lending the couple short-lived happiness. Martha's brother James comes for vengeance, and Reuben flees to the forest, which has always been his refuge from the white world. Reuben and Martha's love is strong, but, dishearteningly, racism is stronger. Timely in the subject of interracial love, this authentic, richly detailed novel plumbs sacrifice, fear, and the loss of one's identity bringing the anguish of the two young lovers to life. 

My Take:

This is the unforgettable story of Ruben S. Sweetbitter, a half-Choctaw man who meets and falls in love with Martha, the daughter of a well-to-do family in Three Rivers, Texas. During this time in history, their love is forbidden.  They meet secretly until they are reported by a co-worker at the mill where Ruben works.  Martha is confronted by her family and when she refuses to give up Ruben, her father makes her leave her home.  Ruben and Martha run away together somewhere where they believe they are safe.  The author compels us to read on, even when the scenes turn scary. This is one of the best books I have read in ages.  The story took me outside of my comfort zone and revealed what it must be like to by shunned by your family and community.  A must read.

About the Author:

Reginald Gibbons has published eleven books of poems, including Creatures of a Day (Finalist for National Book Award) and, most recently, Renditions. His novel Sweetbitter won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Center for Hellenic Studies. His prizes include the O. B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library; Best Novel, Best Book of Poems; and Best Short Story from the Texas Institute of Letters, Chicagoan of the Year in Literature (Chicago Tribune), .and The Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. His poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, and French.  Gibbons was the editor of TriQuarterly magazine 1981-1997. He has taught writing and literature for decades at Northwestern University, where he is a Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities. Gibbons taught for twenty years in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He is currently at work on new poems and a new novel.

Where to buy:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/128374521-sweetbitter?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=A5v3Ucf7lR&rank=1 

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Sweetbitter-Reginald-Gibbons/dp/1737513420/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sweetbitter-reginald-gibbons/1012421076 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/p/books/sweetbitter-reginald-gibbons/19865347

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