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Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith
A Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Oprah Magazine Top 10 Book of the Year

“A magnificent new novel by the best-selling author James McBride.” –cover review of The New York Times Book Review

“Outrageously entertaining.” –USA Today
“James McBride delivers another tour de force” –Essence
“So imaginative, you’ll race to the finish.” –
“Wildly entertaining.”—4-star People lead review
"A boisterous, highly entertaining, altogether original novel.” – Washington Post

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

Book Reviews

The Good Lord Bird
Average rating
3.8 / 5
Good lord bird
August 9th, 2014
James McBride is an amazing author!
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1 review
2 of 2 people found this helpful
January 24th, 2014
A worthy addition to that small, comic subset of historical fiction (including Little Big Man and Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All) in which an unreliable, irreverent, sometimes cranky fictional narrator tells the story of true people and events, in this case John Brown and his quixotic anti-slavery revolt, told from the point of view of a reluctant cross-dressing mulatto slave boy. Though I thought there were a few too many contrivances in order to place the narrator in the center of various actions, the first-person voice is brilliantly done, and the novel is both entertaining and eye-opening.
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1 review
The Good Lord Bird
December 15th, 2013
A good read and a good reminder of the gifts offered by those who went before. And very timely with the passing of Nelson Mandela. Imagine the two of them meeting in some other dimension!
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1 review

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