THE BOOK REPORT: Song Yet Sung by James McBride

Song Yet Sung
James McBride

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At turns lyrical and plodding, the new novel Song Yet Sung by memoirist James McBride skillfully evokes life during the height of slavery in Maryland, while wrestling with visions of a chilling future for modern African Americans.

Centered on the travels of a woman known as “The Dreamer,” who has visions of the future that she uses to inspire slaves, the novel tracks her through the wilds of Eastern Maryland as she attempts to escape slave-catchers, determined to bring her back for bounty.

Ultimately, McBride tries too much, with parallel visions of slavery and the horrors of modern life in ghettos, an explanation of the secret codes of the Underground Railroad, the story of one woman’s flight from slavery to freedom, and an attempt to depict Maryland during the tumultuous years preceding the Civil War.

Song Yet Sung is eminently readable, but McBride’s best work may be a story yet told.

Jonathan Shieber

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