In National Book Award-winning author James McBride’s new novel, there aren’t any skeletons in the closet, but there is one buried in a well. The book’s central mystery begins in 1972 with the discovery of human remains in Pottstown, Pa. The only physical evidence found at the decades-old scene are a belt buckle, a pendant, and a mezuzah, a scroll of parchment paper inscribed with verses from the Torah that is affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes. The latter leads authorities to speak with the only Jewish man who still remains in Chicken Hill, the town’s once-bustling Black and Jewish neighborhood. To understand the present, McBride takes us back to the past, the 1920s and ’30s, when the diverse but divided neighborhood came together to protect an orphaned Black child from being institutionalized. McBride’s rich cast of characters feel so realized that it is hard not to root for these neighbors who find themselves at a crossroads. When the members of the community are once again asked to put their cultural differences aside to help in the investigation of the case, The Heaven & Earth Grocery proves that a common enemy can be a uniting force. —Shannon Carlin
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