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Five-Carat Soul

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,456 ratings  ·  396 reviews
The stories in Five-Carat Soul--none of them ever published before--spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strang ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,456 ratings  ·  396 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Herb Melton, a young scholar working on his PhD thesis at Columbia University, interviews two surviving members of the 92nd, an all-black infantry division known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” about their experiences during World War II. The Judge is Walter Booker, a garrulous sort who is happy to chat, but clams up when asked about some parts of his wartime experience. A “skirmish” in which seventy fought and only seventeen survived is central. Carlos Lopez, his back bent from decades of delivering ...more
Diane S ☔
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 McBride shows us in this fantastic grouping of stories, a wide range of experiences from the viewpoint of blacks. They cover different points of history, from the Civil War and on. The Five-Carat Soul was the band name of a group of youths, starting from the age of nine, telling of life in the Bottoms, the section of a town in Pennsylvania that they called home. There are several of these connecting stories, narrated by a young boy called, Butter. Chronicling daily life but also some notable ...more
On his website James McBride has a short biographical video in which he talks about his mother, his music, and his writing. Every one of the twelve kids in his New York City family growing up played music and read books. McBride himself plays saxophone, and played in a traveling band while writing his first book, The Color of Water. McBride says “we’re all the same…there’s none of that black and white stuff when one gets to the nursing homes…they’re all just happy their body parts are still func ...more
Matthew Quann
Discovering James McBride's writing with Five-Carat Soul was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket of literary comfort. I had an absolute blast every time I pulled up in my trusty social isolation chair (it rocks!) to see what McBride had in store for me. There's a lot of wit, humanity, humour, and insight tied up in these varied stories, but it's the voices of McBride's incredible characters that captured my admiration.

Through unique narrators and McBride's superb writing I was pulled into ea
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
These stories cover a range of places and time periods. Some of them are poignant, charming and surprising, while others are heavy handed and clumsy. For me, the better stories are at the beginning of the book and I particularly liked the first story "The Underground Railroad Box Car Set". Unfortunately, I found "Mr. P and the Wind" to be an unbearable allegory with talking zoo animals. Since it was the final, and longest, story in the book it left me with a poor impression. However, overall the ...more
Tayari Jones
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The best thing about short story collections is also the worst thing. This is that each story is. free-standing entity. You can read it and enjoy it and move on to the next. If you don't enjoy it, you can still move on to the next. I have never read a short story collection that didn't have at least ONE story that I could appreciate.

This collection is full of winners! My favorite stories were the ones in the second half of the book. THE CHRISTMAS DANCE had me sniffling in public. It was so odd--
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, audiobook
This is a collection of amazing short stories by James McBride. Some of the stories are quite different from one another, yet there are definitely common threads, such as the stories about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Band. They all had a subtle spark of humor and some of the stories had remarkably surprising endings. I like stories that are unpredictable, and these stories definitely fit the bill.

I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook. The various stories had different narra
My first McBride (as I did not read the much-lauded Good Lord Bird), Five-Carat Soul is an eclectic mix of shorts--one of those deals where you average stars because it scores 5 on technical merit and 3 on entertainment value.

Some of the stories are set in our time, some in history, and some in a fantasy world of sorts. The opener, about a toy collector who's on to the Holy Grail of toys (a toy train once owned by Robert E. Lee, of all people), gets the set off to a peppy start but ends rather
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Insanely fantastically smart, poignant, and funny (when called for) short stories. James McBride has considerable range as a storyteller and this collection of stories proves that point. I hadn't read Mr. McBride in a while and this collection reminded me, hot damn! the Man can write. Highly recommended!
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Listened via LeVar Burton Reads podcast. (Bonus (#12.5?))

Enjoyed the slice-of-life and the writing that did well to give an impression of exploring a new world - an insular community shunned by those outside and therefore ignoring them in return. I dropped a star for the ending. The interview with the author after the story ended up confirming the worst interpretation of the ending, leaving it hollow and me wondering if the end was solely for shock value and ought to have been cut entirely. (vie
Liza Fireman
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I loved the beginning of this book, it was intruiging, well written and I hoped that this time James McBride will win me over. But exactly like in The Good Lord Bird, he lost me quite quickly.
Actually I didn't even know that it is a book of stories. And I am most of the time not a fan of stories. Few make them awesome (I can mention the exceptional Alice Munro for the millionth time), but the most, just don't.

I liked the beginning, the first story "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set". A toy
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first story was best but predictable. The remaining stories were too depressing for my tastes. 3 of 10 stars
Jul 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-freebie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

When it comes to fiction books, I tend to prefer novels over short story collections, as I like being able to spend a good amount of time getting to know a character(s) and immersing myself into their story. With short stories, especially ones that feature different characters in each story, this becomes a bit of a challenge – it usually takes a bit more effort and concentration on my part to really get into the stories and hopefully connect with the characters. While I would say that o
Marlene England
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m a big fan of James McBride’s writing, so I had high expectations when I dug into the advance copy of FIVE-CARAT SOUL. And I was not disappointed. This is a stellar collection of stories brilliantly told as only McBride can tell them. I enjoyed every page.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
That was a story where I didn't see the ending coming. I'm torn between whether it served the story or was simply for shock value. I don't know how to rate it, so average felt about right. I was hoping the conversation between McBride and Burton at the end of this podcast would clear up why the story went in this direction, but it didn't really. Which is unfortunate.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Following up a National Book Award Winner can't be an easy task for any author. Luckily, James McBride delivers with FIVE-CARAT SOUL, a collection of short stories. Some stand on their own while others are linked. No matter, with possibly one exception (sorry, "The Moaning Bench") these are stories to savor and enjoy.

Right out of the gate, I laughed out loud in several spots while reading "The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set," the tale of a toy collector and his Great White Whale. The next fou
Chrysten Lofton
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5.0⭐ "Miss McIntyre Said To Tell You, ‘Get Somebody To Read This Who Aint No Relation To You.’"

* Mild Spoilers*

On this, the bonus installment of Sticher podcast's LeVar Burton Reads, we're gifted with a live reading of Goat by James McBride, followed by a great interview with Burton and McBride.

I feel like everything I could surmise about this story was pretty much in that interview, it was a good one. McBride notes that this is a story about a person with a secret, and how they sort of do
Danny Cerullo
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
James McBride is an author who wears his heart on his sleeve and that is an amazingly refreshing thing in a literary scene full of writers trying to out cynic each other. Five-Carat Soul is a collection of fairly simple stories with a ton of heart.
Betsy Gant
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Basically, I've realized that I'm woefully behind in my 2017 reading challenge. So now I'm adding every short story I've had to read this year for school. "Goat" is a good descriptive story. It's a riveting story with a disturbing twist at the end. I wouldn't recommend it. I think James McBride is a good author as far as modern authors go; however, I suppose the ending disturbed me enough to not rate this story any greater than 2 stars. McBride wants to disturb us and make us think. He successfu ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
My book club picks some incredible books. This collection of short stories is marvelous—poignant and unexpected, culminating in a fable that left me feeling heartbroken and hopeful at once.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing collection of stories. I especially appreciated the range of narration and vantage point in each story. Each one had a deep message, but often conveyed in a purely humanistic way. While I had the hardest time connecting with the final story, the pay-off was definitely worth it. A great read overall, 4.5 stars.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some of the most poignant, insightful and unpredictable stories I have ever read; I enjoyed each and everyone one of them. James McBride has an unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail.
I listened to this book on audio and the narrations were top notch.
Grace Sanchez
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
I don’t usually read short stories as a genre but I was thoroughly immersed in every story in this book. I especially loved Mr. P & the Wind. The author’s imagery, sense of place and voice are so enjoyable in this book. ...more
Gary Moreau
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t recall ever actually resorting to this description before, but the word “yarn” lingered in my thoughts continuously as I read this collection of diverse short stories. And even that doesn’t do them justice. They don’t so much have a beginning and an end in the sense that stories normally do. They are a launch pad for thought without deliberately promoting any particular intellectual or political agenda. It’s entertainment for thought at its best.

McBride is a master storyteller. The prose
Herb watched, entranced, as the threesome danced. Carlos danced like a ballet dancer, graceful, holding lovely Lillian Johns like she was a gardenia, guiding her around tenderly and cautiously, spinning a web on the floor. They moved like angels, while the old Judge circled them like an attentive, clumsy, soused guardian[...]
Because that was what Clifford Johns promised his wife. That's what Carlos told Herb before he sent him on his way. That after the smoke had cleared and the Americans had d
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book! I cannot recommend Five Carat Soul enough to all my friends that love a good story, a good cry, and a sense of optimism that is missing even from some of the best novels out there. Think of Mark Twain, O'Henry, and Ernest Gaines getting together for a drink, and riffing on heartbreak, steeped in the coming of age blues.

I cannot recommend these stories enough: "Goat", a beautifully rendered story of a young man in love with his beautiful teacher, the pangs of first love an
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I fell in love with McBride’s fiction while reading his National Book Award-winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, his tale about the zealot John Brown. This collection of short stories with their humor and humanity are gems in McBride’s distinctive style. There is the story regarding the Five Carat Soul garage funk band and a novella about a lion’s life in a zoo. There is the heartwarming story of the ‘The Christmas Dance’ about a young man seeking the oral history from black veterans of the Italia ...more
Shirley Freeman
Clearly I'm going to have to change my opinion about short stories... because I really liked the whole collection in James McBride's upcoming (September) book. The voices in the stories are varied and unexpected - a Jewish antique toy salesman, five impoverished young boys, Abe Lincoln and his young son's ghost, a bunch of animals at a zoo, a soldier from WWII. Some of the stories are singles and some have several chapters. Some are almost spiritual in nature. All are very human. McBride is a gi ...more
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Ending of the story "Goat" 1 5 Sep 26, 2019 05:47PM  

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James McBride is a native New Yorker and a graduate of  New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.  He is married with three children. He lives ...more

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