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Kings of Broken Things

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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,426 ratings  ·  132 reviews
With characters depicted in precise detail and wide panorama—a kept-woman’s parlor, a contentious interracial baseball game on the Fourth of July, and the tragic true events of the Omaha Race Riot of 1919—Kings of Broken Things reveals the folly of human nature in an era of astonishing ambition.

During the waning days of World War I, three lost souls find themselves adrift
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Hardcover, 326 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Little A
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Theodore Hi, Mary. Clandish is made up for the story. Since there wasn't really a Germantown in Omaha like in other cities, this helped simplify things for the…moreHi, Mary. Clandish is made up for the story. Since there wasn't really a Germantown in Omaha like in other cities, this helped simplify things for the sake of the story.(less)

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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  1,426 ratings  ·  132 reviews


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Devin Murphy
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love when a story grabs me right away and drops me into a world I had no idea I would be fascinated by. This book pulled me into Omaha, Nebraska at the end of WWI, and showed the immense racial, national, and economic strife bubbling up to the surface. The cast of characters are rich, diverse, and compelling. I’ve happened across some of Wheeler’s short stories in literary journals in the past and made a note to watch out for whatever big book he surly had in him, and this does not disappoint. ...more
Sam Slaughter
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly engaging work of historical fiction that manages to blend race relations, baseball, and the corruption that made early 1900s Omaha run. Wheeler's prose is fluid and carries you along from beginning to end.
Zara
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
American history is not my strong point ...

But I must say I thought this book was about race relations with respect to a baseball game.

And maybe I missed it but, there were some characters made more important than necessary, so I often found myself trying to remember who that person was.

All in all a decent story ... perhaps trying to squeeze too many elements into it - a perception born of ignorance of the real history I suppose.
Elizabeth C
Gripping Historical Read

This book is extremely well written, blending historical facts with storytelling that brings history alive and makes the reader feel as though they are witnessing the events firsthand.
Katie B
Towards the end of World War I, three people with different backgrounds find themselves in Omaha, Nebraska. Karel Miihlstein is a young boy who came to the United States from Austria with his father and three sisters. He soon discovers a love for the game of baseball and some talent to go along with it. Jake Strauss flees to Omaha after a violent incident and starts working for some shady people. Evie Chambers loves to sew and make clothes but that's not exactly how she makes a living. This is a ...more
Suellen
Before:
I don’t remember where I heard about this book. I keep thinking that Simon may have mentioned it on The Readers Podcast. In any event, I’m anxious to read it, especially if Simon was indeed the source. I’m rarely disappointed with his choices.

After:
I like books about immigrants in the early 1900’s and this one was very good. It centers around baseball, which I really don’t like, but the story was still fascinating. It really wasn’t so much about baseball but about all the different ethnic
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Karna Converse
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-on-kindle
Insightful look into life in immigrant neighborhoods of Omaha, Nebraska in the years building up to the Omaha Race Riot of 1919.

Wheeler introduces readers to three main characters who are searching to build new lives during a time of political corruption, growing nationalism, and contentious race relations. Their lives intersect in Omaha's River Ward during a time that soldiers are returning home from war and America is welcoming refugees to her land. The result is both heartwarming and
...more
Carole
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I can only say it was interesting how the story was put together but I can't say that I would tell people they had to read it. I got through it, only because it was written around the history of a riot in 1917 in Omaha, a lynching of a black man helped out by the "machinery" who a corrupt bunch of politicians who had lost the last election. According to this book they helped stir the riot against the mayor who himself had been strung up, but survived. The black man didn't and was put to a ...more
Hollen Wheeler
Oct 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
DNF. I gave it a month but couldn't get traction or lucidity in the storyline.
Shannon
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I chose this as my Amazon prime book of the month because it sounded so interesting. The premise is great, however the book left a lot to be desired for me. So many of the characters fell flat for me. I feel as though the author created some amazing characters, but just was not able to turn them into dynamic and unique characters. The author's halting sentences disrupted the flow of the book for me, it was difficult to read at times due to odd sentence structure. I feel as though this book was ...more
Laura Wagner de Romero
Quite remarkable

I found the King of Broken Things to be a very satisfying and interesting book. Very authentic in the way it captured the voices of many different protagonists. Full of historic details yet never pedantic. Very thought provoking about perennial issues like race relations, discrimination by new and less recent immigrants against others and what is political integrity. I was thrilled by this first novel and look forward to new works by Theodore Wheeler.
Kyle
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most native Omahans with anything like an inkling of interest in history are aware of the race riots and subsequent lynching of Willie Brown and almost the mayor too. Maybe they've had a teach talk about in class, perused the scant wikipedia article or simply saw that plaque somewhere in South Omaha. Theodore Wheeler takes this horrific scar on the famously, milquetoast cow-town's path and builds up to it like a long slow simmer, examine the social attitudes, political jockeying and ethnic ...more
Christine Lowe
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Book!

What an unexpectedly interesting book. This isn't what I usually choose to read but I wanted to try something different this month. This was a great choice for my Kindle First Pick for July. Although the book is a work of fiction, in the Author's Note Wheeler writes ".... the scenes depicted are a fictional approximation of what life was like in Omaha during the last years of World War 1 and how the Omaha Race Root of 1919 was experienced." I must confess I didn't even know that Omaha
...more
Don
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but the more I think about my reading experience with it, the Goodreads "it was ok" 2 star treatment feels appropriate.

The book is historical fiction, placed in Omaha, Nebraska during WWI years, leading up to an infamous race riot that occurred there in 1919. The writing was solid, and it was an easy book to read. My problems was that the book just didn't feel connected. There was no one, real primary character to attach to when reading, making the book have more of
...more
James C. Graves
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wheeler is a terrific writer. His character development, his understanding of human frailty instills compassion for people who do bad things. He understands how people are manipulated by evil forces that exist in every society and culture. His attention to historical detail, the research that went into the writing is brilliant! I purchased this book on a whim, as I do with many of the ebooks I buy, and continually read many books simultaneously. I read this book straight through .com the ...more
Carol
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy a book that pushes me to research the events that provide the backdrop, and that this book did do. The year is 1919. The location Omaha, Nebraska. The culture of the city is a mixing pot of immigrants of old, new immigrants, blacks who have migrated north for the available jobs and mob/machinery politics. Wheeler pulls the reader into the story with the prologue. However, it takes most of the rest of the book to understand how the characters of the story fit into the prologue; that is ...more
Joan Buell
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating historical novel


The author brings to life the city of Omaha in 1918, through the skillful portrayal of its three main characters: a young boy recently immigrated from Germany, a light-skinned African-American woman stuck in prostitution and passing as white, and a young Nebraskan man over his head in the corrupt political machine. Woven through the story are glimpses of socialism, anarchists, baseball players, a child in poor health,and Prohibition. There is romance, and troubled
...more
Sally
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great historical novel set right after WWI in Omaha, NE. What is significant in this time period is the hanging of a black man in front of the court house. Events leading up to this terrible act tell us about the ethnic make-up of the city, their jobs, homes and politics. Party boss, Tom Dennison was in power and most of the problems were attributed to him. It is not a boring read. Very interesting!
Molly Mitchell
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly interesting

As a free book, I didn't expect much. But the story held my attention. I thought it was well written, despite the ugliness of the circumstances. It is historical fiction, and it explores an incident not familiar to me, never having lived in Omaha. I think it describes attitudes that were present in the whole country at the time. Fast paced and easy to read.
Mike Collins
The Author's Got Some Imagination!

This book, at times gripping, often led my concentration astray with overly detailed descriptions of settings and actions. I mean, that's usually good with a novel and why we read books in the first place, but I thought there were too many times where it went too far. That said, I did appreciate the depiction of Omaha in 1919 and at book's end, I did have renewed interest in further research on Omaha's race riots of this period.
Cheryl Cramer
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written but difficult subject matter. Scary how much history continues to repeat itself.
Laura
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
A good book that takes place in a time period that I have happened to never read much about. There's a lot going on in the book so you get to see a lot of what things were like in Omaha around World War I from different perspectives. It may have helped to focus on just a few of these many things but the book is written in such a way that it isn't hard to keep track of the many plot points.
E.
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I timed the reading of Wheeler's novel to fall this week as Omaha observes the centennial of the lynching of Will Brown, the event that climaxes this story.

Wheeler's writing has influences of DeLillo, as he follows a handful of teenagers and young adults, mostly immigrants, in World War I era Omaha.
Cheryl Leslie
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A wonderful tale of immigrants, race relations, politics, and baseball in early 19th century Omaha, Nebraska. Theodore Wheeler's first novel is a glimpse into the workings of a small city and the harshness that comes of living without much work and much booze during the Prohibition.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly.
Rachel
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the historical information in this book set in Omaha, Nebraska in 1918-1919. I learned about the corrupt political machine that controlled the city, how new immigrants were part of the city's culture-and not, and about the horrible race riot of 1919. However, I did not enjoy Wheeler's writing. Like my writing here, it doesn't flow well.
Lynette Fullerton
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
What a grim book. A few moments of sunlight but on the whole very, very dark. The last third of it, especially. I had never heard about the riots in Omaha and it horrified me to read about what happened.
Caroline Bartels
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Wow, the riot! You know it is all building up to it, but I was an anxious wreck that entire chapter. The fact that that happened in Omaha 100 years ago is shocking. What is equally disturbing is that in the current climate of this country that could easily happen again. Scary stuff.
Jim Sitrick
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding on Omaha

Superb book that captures the underlying themes and tensions in Omaha in the early 20th century with a mix of fictional and real historical characters.
Greta Samuelson
3 to 3.5 stars. This is Wheeler's first novel and it's pretty good. Sometimes it dragged a bit but other times he was really good at getting to his reader's emotions.
David Haws
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Retributive Justice (an eye for an eye) is an illusion because the two things considered in exchange are never equal and seldom equivalent; what we have is anger and the desire for revenge. This should be the take-away from the Omaha Race Riot, but this isn’t what we get in the novel. The prose is spotty (sometimes good, occasionally difficult to parse, but mostly adequate) as might be expected from someone who makes their living by writing quickly. Some of the characters don’t work ...more
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Theodore Wheeler is author of the novels In Our Other Lives (Little A, 2020) and Kings of Broken Things (Little A, 2017), and a collection of short stories, Bad Faith (Queens Ferry Press, 2016). He has been recognized with a Marianne Russo Award from the Key West Literary Seminar and a fellowship from Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. A graduate of the creative writing program at ...more
“but already there were so many laws that a man was either a lawbreaker or a hypocrite.” 0 likes
“was easiest to believe this. Who wanted to accuse a girl of lying about a thing like that? And who was saying those things about Milt anyway? Who’d believe a guy set it up to have his girl raped? Will Brown did it. That’s what most believed, what Karel thought he believed. That’s what made sense. At the dorming house there were organizers from the machine talking to boys. Just inside the door, by the manager’s office. Joe Meinhof was with them. Lining up the boys, handing out some coin.” 0 likes
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