The Good Lord Bird

The Good Lord Bird

by James McBride
4.2 40

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The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

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
Look out for McBride's new book, Five-Carat Soul

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water, Song Yet Sung, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101616185
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/20/2013
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 43,174
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Obama, James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, the #1 bestselling American classic The Color of Water, and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was turned into a film by Spike Lee. He is also the author of Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography. McBride is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New York, New York


Oberlin Conservatory of Music; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

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The Good Lord Bird: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. I was fortunate enough to snag an advanced copy and was hooked by page one! James McBride has a wonderful voice for this narrative. I have never read a historical novel so fresh and just downright interesting. The gender conflicts woven into the story gives a historical era a slight modern twist but it's still believable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started laughing from the moment I opened the book and started reading. Even though the events depicted (centering around John Brown and his unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry) brought hardship and pain to the various characters, the interchanges between the narrator, a young black boy thrust into an undesired role, and those he encounters on his travels (some of whom were actual historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass) led to unexpectedly offbeat predicaments. I think author McBride found a unique voice to present his tale, and it worked wonders for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish, had a few laughs while reading it, and learned some details about the attack on Harpers Ferry in the process.
MahMah More than 1 year ago
--And the person I'd like to recommend for the job is none other than the crazy 2000 yr. old producer/director of stage and film, Mr. Mel Brooks, whose bizarre sense of life and humanity is, in my mind, the only person capable of doing total justice to author McBride's equally bizarre, ironic, FANTASTICALLY FUNNY book! Most of us, I believe, were introduced to the odd-ball, rather scary, John Brown -- intransigent anti-slavery abolitionist of pre-civil war times -- by high school history teachers, but not with any compassion or warmth! When I was done reading McBride's brilliantly humorous version of the bewildering Brown and the equally strange people he consorted with during those long ago times, I almost wished he was still alive so I could step up shake his grubby, ugly old hand!
CatheMarie More than 1 year ago
A complex, compelling story about Little Onion, a slave, and John Brown, the abolitionist. John Brown "frees" Little Onion, a boy he mistakes for a girl after killing his owner and the boy's father. We are drawn into the fray as John Brown or "The Old Man" as Little Onion calls him attempts to rally his fellow citizens to take up the cause to free the slaves. John Brown knows and is known by people famous and infamous of his age. However, he is his own worst enemy when it comes to his organizational skills. James McBride makes these characters real and fictional so believable. It's like we too are traveling through Missouri, Kansas, Canada and the eastern seaboard. We too get to meet Harriet Tubman in Canada and Frederick Douglass with his two wives. An interesting and engrossing read!
scottydback More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Felt a bit like Mark Twain reincarnated as I chuckled, bristled, sneered, cheered, and got downright angry at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Very well written. Fun to read and good pace.. Also, interesting take on black history and historical events..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel fictionalizes the rise and last stand of abolitionist John Brown through the eyes of youth Henry Shackleford. Enslaved in Kansas when Brown comes through on a mission to recruit new converts to fight the Pro-Slavery faction, Henry is sucked into Brown's mighty orbit through a series of tragi-comic events. Henry's small proportions and delicate features induce Brown to mistake him for a girl. Henry thus spends the next couple years of his life as Henrietta, affectionately dubbed "the Onion," an unwilling member of Brown's ragtag army and unwitting witness to events of historic import. Driving this lively, well-paced narrative is the distinct voice of its hero/ine. Abundantly rich in metaphor and amply given to the hyperbolic, the Onion's voice is vibrant and beautifully textured. The humor, aside from existing for its own sake, deploys the satirical nature of the novel, and in this, at times, comes off as heavy-handed. In the main, the portrayal of Frederick Douglass as a closet drunk and bigamist coward looking for a mulatto piece on the side is brutal. The novel clearly holds Brown's sold-out warmongering on behalf of freedom for his black brothers and sisters above Douglass' "silk shirt" sermonizing, but it posits an unnecessary binary in doing so. The contrast seems out of place in a narrative that venerates the Brown character for understanding that each soul has its own purpose in life and must be about its own business. That notwithstanding, even the Douglass bit strikes genuinely funny moments. The abundant humor of the novel does nothing to lessen the narrative's quite serious contemplations of race, identity, and masculinity, friendship, sonship, duty and courage, and the inescapability of life's messy, meaningful complications. Along with the obvious appreciation of Brown, there is a pervasive reverence for women in the novel. In particular, there is 'General' Harriet Tubman dispensing wisdom and displaying a self-possession in leadership that tames even the bombastic Brown. Enslaved sisters Sibonia and Libby are drawn to purely masterful effect. And Brown's daughter, Annie, is presented as a perfect combination of sweetness and strength. I also find that the novel, whether authorially intended to do so or not, pays great homage to two American classics, the short story "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, particularly in the symbiosis between the Onion and Fred. The resonances are in fact quite remarkable. The Good Lord Bird manages to be great fun, deeply thoughtful, damned heartbreaking, and belligerently hopeful to the last. Definitely worthy of a place on a reader's shelf, and for teachers of American lit, definitely worthy of a spot on the syllabus.
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footdoc81 More than 1 year ago
historical novel but the protagonist and all the supporting characters are fascinating. A great read if you are a history buff
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Basil More than 1 year ago
Takes Over Where Twain Left Off... "The Good Lord Bird" is a wonderful all-American story about Henry "the Onion" Shackleford, a diminutive octoroon disguised as a petite young Negro girl who encamps with abolitionist John Brown and his ragged band, the "Pottawatomie Rifles." Bloody Kansas and Harpers Ferry are among the tormented stops in this rousing novel of Antebellum America. While the theme is certainly serious, the tone is always comic, bright and light for the engaged reader. McBride's characters--and there are many of them--are beautifully drawn and enduringly memorable; like Mark Twain's Huck Finn, they leap out of the page at you. The first person dialogue is classic Americana in the Twain tradition. Take the boy's description of his master: "Dutch Henry Sherman was a German feller, big in feature, standing six hands tall without his boots. He had hands the size of meat cleavers, lips the color of veal, and a rumbling voice. He owned me, Pa, my aunt and uncle, and several Indian squaws, which he used for privilege." No wonder McBride won the National Book Award for "The Good Lord Bird."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is symbolic of today and the struggles within the black and white communities. It was fascinating to read and understand a time that is not documented in history books. Great read.u
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christmas book for my brother.He's looking forward to reading it next.
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