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Ginny Gall

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  46 reviews
A sweeping, eerily resonant epic of race and violence in the Jim Crow South: a lyrical and emotionally devastating masterpiece from Charlie Smith, whom the New York Public Library has said “may be America’s most bewitching stylist alive”

Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their home in the Red Row section of Chattanooga, accused of killing a white man. Taken
Hardcover, 453 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Harper
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3.37  · 
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 ·  158 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Ron Charles
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-favorites
Smith's gorgeous, harrowing novel covers a great swatch of the Jim Crow South and conjures up the largely separate, ferociously repressed world of African Americans in the early 20th century. The protagonist is Delvin, born in 1913, to a “good-time gal” in Chattanooga, Tenn. Early in the novel, his mother unintentionally kills a white man and runs for her life. Delvin is left first to the care of an orphanage and then to a kindly undertaker, from whom he learns the mechanics of death and the rhy ...more
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
★★★★ Ginny Gall: A Life in the South ~ Charlie Smith ★★★★

“The boy was smart and he knew the story but he hadn’t been able to tell it. Like all of them he didn’t believe what was happening to him. Three hundred years of teaching, and they still didn’t get it.”

A middle-aged father of four travels across town one night to one of his best friend’s houses. He is stopped by the police and questioned. Despite the Mortuary Chief’s Seal in the window of his Volvo that marks him as a working man like the
switterbug (Betsey)
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Ginny Gall is slang for “a suburb of Hell,” which certainly applied to black people in the Jim Crow South, where you could be lynched just for being black. Delvin Walker, the main protagonist, suffered for the crime of having dark skin. He was born in the Red Row (black--we'd call it the projects now) district of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1913, to a scrappy and fiery mother, whose crime he was also paying for. Charlie Smith’s novel is more of a portrait of a time, and of a people that Delvin sy ...more
Nancy Reynolds
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Ginny Gall" is the story of a black man, living in the South during the Jim Crowe Era, accused of killing a white man. Just a boy, Delvin Walker and his mother flee their home in Red Row, Chattanooga. He is taken in by Cornelius Oliver, owner of the town’s most prominent African-American funeral home, where he learns about grieving, compassion and religion.

This book deals realistically with a time period in US history that many current groups want to cover up, or 'whitewash'. I am a believer th
Ed Maher
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book had enormous potential for the first 250 pages. Unfortunately, it went completely off the tracks. (No pun intended.) The author's penchant for page long sentences, endless description and stream of consciousness Mumbo Jumbo completely gutted what could have been a great story. I'm not an art critic. As a reader I'm just a paying customer. Vociferous style over substance does not appeal to me. Mr. Smith should stick to poetry and keep the cost down.
Lyra Pherigo
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was a great find. I was at the Olathe library looking at the newly released books, I'm so glad I picked it up. Charlie Smith is a great writer. He is able to write poetically within a devastating story about a black man growing up in the 1930's in the South. I highly recommend it. Writers are amazing!
African Americans on the Move Book Club
Charlie Smith’s new novel, Ginny Gall, is about a life in the South. The reader is introduced to the protagonist, Delvin Walker, at his birth on the porch where his mother is currently living. With Delvin’s birth, Mr. Smith begins an in depth portrayal of Southern mores that have lasted for generations. “A certain way of doing things” that impacts both Black life and White life on a daily basis. The novel Ginny Gall is not for the faint of heart. There are brutal scenes that give the reader paus ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Feb 19, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Ginny Gall is the latest work from prize winning author Charlie Smith.

The title? Ginny Gall is a word coined by 1920's and 1930's blacks meaning..."a suburb of Hell". And that's where Smith takes the reader to start - to the Jim Crow south in Tennessee.

The lead character is Delvin Walker born in Chattanooga in 1913 to a prostitute. He's left alone too soon as his mother flees, accused of killing a white man. Smith takes the reader on Delvin's journey through life as he makes his way - first
May 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Contemporary fiction book group - have to confess I didn't finish this book but abandoned it 100 pages from end because I just couldn't take it anymore. I really wanted to like this book but the overly descriptive writing, disjointed story, and run on sentences were too much to overcome. Could have been a great book as the look at the Jim Crow south, race, class, poverty, colorism, etc. provided ample material. I did like parts of this book and several sections really made me think and draw para ...more
Chris Wellens
Jan 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Way too dark

The first half of the book is all description, a little character development, and no plot. The second half of the book has a plot, but just when you think you have hit rock bottom, it gets darker and more depressing, but that's not enough, it gets even darker and even more depressing! There are many sections of beautiful prose, but that was not enough for me.
Rachel Harper
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
The book was very slow. Felt every one of the 453 pages
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Smith is a highly gifted author and poet. While the lengthy prose and paragraphs could have been minimized in this story, without distracting from the overall plot, there was such depth and beauty in his descriptive writing that I didn't mind the additional passages. Smith takes us on a journey into the lives of negroes living under Jim Crow from 1913-1943.
Set predominately in Chattanooga, Devlin Walker is five years old in 1918 when his mother, Cappie, is accused of murdering a white man, one o
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it
We first meet Delvin Walker as a very young black boy abandoned by his mother when she was accused of killing a man while working as a prostitute on "Red Row" in Chattanooga. His education was sporadic, and he was turned away from various schools because he had no parent or guardian to vouch for him. He did learn to read, however and discovered that books were "rideable transport into habitable territory." Delvin spent some time in an orphanage and a foundlings home, but was eventually taken in ...more
Dec 22, 2015 added it

Ginny Gal follows the life and the journey of Delvin Walker beginning with the moment of his birth on the steps of a home in the black neighborhood of Chatanooga in (I believe) 1913. It is Delvin's story and at the same time it is an "everyman's" story. Delvin learns early about the power (or, more accurately, powerlessness) of his skin color when his mother flees after responding in anger to the beating of her son after he took a small shiny bead from a dress store. Delvin lives as a traveler.
Sarah Beth
I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins.

Revealing the haunting racism and violence of the South in the Jim Crow era, this novel follows the life of Delvin Walker. When Delvin is a young child, his mother flees, fearful of being accused of murdering a white man. Young Delvin is taken in by the owner of the local Negro funeral home and learns to care for those suffering from grief and discovers the power of the written word. Yet the racist world he lives in continues
Amanda Morgan
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is the (extremely long) tale of Delvin Walker and his life on the run. Delvin was born the last of many children to a poor prostitute around the 1920s/1930s, and his birth happened so fast, his mama didn't even make it off the back porch before he came flying out and she scooped him up into her loving arms. Although his mama was a whore, she loved her kids and gave them a decent upbringing. That is, until she accidentally killed a white man in their hometown of Chattanooga, and fled for the ...more
Dark, dismal, violent, sorrowful–all words descriptive of Charlie Smith’s latest novel, Ginny Gall. In my opinion, this masterful work has entered the book world at the most appropriate of times.

Ginny Gall is a name in the Negro communities of 1920s-30s defining life as “the hell beyond hell, hell’s hell.” The years of the 1920s and 1930s represent the Jim Crow era and in choosing this backdrop for Ginny Gall, Smith has told us the story of a representative member of the African-American communi
Cathe Olson
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
After Devlin Walker's prostitute mother is accused of murdering a white man, she flees town, leaving the boy on his own. He is eventually taken in by the local mortician, but flees when he himself is afraid he might be accused of murder. Devlin becomes rather a hobo, but no matter where he is, he constantly writes down his observations in notebooks. He can't seem to avoid unfairness, however. While riding the rails, he and several other black men are falsely accused of raping some white women.

Jae Park
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: firstreads
"Ginny Gall" is the story of Delvin Walker, and it begins when he is just a young boy. His mother is accused of killing a white man and runs away to escape. Delvin is taken in by the town's mortician and learns how to prepare bodies and host funerals. Getting into trouble with his friend, he thinks they killed a white boy. Delvin then runs off to a hobo life and explores America.

As he travels, he takes on odd jobs like farm work and helping with a traveling museum of black Americana. He meets
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel that leaves you breathless. It is compelling, enthralling, disturbing, and captivating all at once. On top of that, Smith's writing is exquisite. Another reviewer here made me laugh by saying, "The author's penchant for page long sentences, endless description and stream of consciousness Mumbo Jumbo completely gutted what could have been a great story." (I'll let the reviewer's writing speak for itself.) Apologizing in advance for the pun, but Smith's writing proves he is, indeed ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Nearly every paragraph in the book is a work of art and on a page-by-page basis I am utterly in awe of this author's writing. Unfortunately it becomes too much of a good thing relatively early on. Smith's descriptions are lush but extensive; they seem to go on forever and bog down Delvin's story considerably, giving the narrative a plodding, elegiac tone. I came away from the book with a deeper understanding of the heart of the racial divide that continues to affect us (the United States in par ...more
Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

Delvin Walker is our main character and he starts the book as a very young man, maybe even child abandoned by his mother as she has killed a man and as a black woman will face the harshest of punishments for her crime. Devlin and his siblings are taken to an orphanage of sorts and from there Delvin's life is a whirlwind.

To describe this book in one word, which I rarely do, I immediately thought of adventure. If you are a reader who loves books that
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes a book picks its reader rather than the reader picking the book. This was the case with Ginny Gall. It called to me from the library shelf and I brought it home not really expecting to read it. Once I started it I could not stop. About half way through, I had to look up "Ginny Gall" in Zora Neale Hurston's book of Harlem slang and then the book took on another level of meaning for me that was heart wrenching. The juxtaposition of the Jim Crow south with the lyrical beauty of the langua ...more
Donna D
How to describe this book? Charlie Smith is being hailed as a lyrical writer. I would say that is true. Sometimes it felt that I was reading poetry instead of a novel. He writes beautifully. The story itself speaks to what happens to a young man as he travels through a difficult life. When it ended , I had a lingering sense of sadness. If you like lighter reading then I would take a pass on this one. If you're up for a meatier read, give it a try.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Brilliantly written, so many themes explored. The book was long and by page 300 was dragging for me. You are privy to Delvin's every thought-and I mean every thought. Which gives you insight into his character and certainly into the time period and setting,etc. But it also makes it a bit tedious in reading. Race in the south in the 20's and 30's but also so much more about life, love and basic needs.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There may be shortcomings to this book, but the thoughtful infusion of poetic style into intelligent prose is engaging. Not a book to mindlessly plow thorough.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Goodreads win. This book is about a young man who flees his home in Chattnooga accused of killing a white man. While on the run a man who runs a funeral home takes him in and teaches him the trade. He flees again and rides the rails where he falls in love. This book is a portrait of life in the 1920's and 30's where rascism was rampant.
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Struggled with the rating on this. The writing was beautiful although a bit verbose during the last section. However I had issues with the plot among other things. I do think I will pick it for my book club because it will be an interesting discussion.
Rosemary Szczygiel
Apr 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I turned this book over to an avid reader of fiction who said that the reviewers who used the term "hypnotic" to describe it were spot on. If you are waiting to discover what exactly "Ginny Gall" refers to, it takes sometime through this book, but it's well worth it!
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