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The Rib King

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  393 ratings  ·  164 reviews
Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite: The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel, set in the early twentieth century that centers ar ...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published January 19th 2021 by Amistad
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Cat In Parasite, the Kim family works for low wages and covers for one another when they start to work for the Parks. Similarly, the characters in Rib Kin…moreIn Parasite, the Kim family works for low wages and covers for one another when they start to work for the Parks. Similarly, the characters in Rib King, namely, Sitwell, work together to cover one another for small discrepancies during a particularly rough period both in the world around them (1914, Jim Crow Era American midwest) and in the house for which they serve, The Barclays, which is quickly falling into financial despair.

There are certainly differences in the in-between action (as well as the amount of time) that causes the rift between the main characters, but both involve a desperate act of criminality.

Much later on, when the former serving staff of the Barclay's has dispersed, the 'Rib King'--or, Sitwell--shows up in their lives once more, and, to quote the inside-cover blurb, "having witnessed Mr. Sitwell's transformation, find themselves implicated in the crimes of "The Rib King" and are forced to contend with the consequences,". Similarly, in Bong Joon-ho's 2019 film, the Kims, once a family unit, become separated and face vastly different outcomes, all caused and interdependent on the actions of others in the Park estate.

Given the general similarity in plot Rib King and Parasite, I found the dynamic between the characters was also fairly close. But whether or not this is true for you, or any given reader, is still up to the individual!(less)

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**I received this book in a Bookish Firsts giveaway. It is due to be released (at this time) in January 0f 2021.

(FYI, the author's first name is pronounced "Lady.")

Whew, I'm really struggling with what to rate this. This novel covers sadly timely topics (although it's set a century ago) such as race, class, sexism, privilege, xenophobia, and violence. It's also got a stilted first half with some pacing problems, a great middle, and then a blink and you missed it conclusion.

The story is split int
Jessica Woodbury
A bold and original historical novel exploring class, race, and the ways we take revenge. The Parasite comp is a very good one, not only because the book starts us in a house with servants and because of the dread and violence that runs through it, but also because of the twisty plot that takes you to very unexpected places.

On its surface, this is a book about Black servants in a white home in early 20th century New Orleans, where the wealth is not quite what it once was and the servants bear th
This is the prequel to The Talented Ribkins where we are introduced to the family's patriarch August Sitwell. When I requested this book I was interested in seeing how many aspects of that book carried over:
* Examination of Race/ Class
* Unique Superpowers
* Family Bonds

Certainly, this novel deals with race relations and social justice issues. Where The Talented Ribkins was a contemporary novel that also centered on the Civil Rights Movement, The Rib King is set in the early 1900s. Our protagon
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting and unique book that wasn’t what I expected but I did enjoy it. The first half of the book was told from Mr. Sitwell’s perspective, the Barclay’s groundskeeper who has worked for them since he was a young orphan they took in to work the kitchen. The second half is told from Jennie’s perspective a young mother who was a maid isn’t he Barclay’s home. This book was largely about race and the injustices that have occurred in our country as well as the underlying tension b ...more
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I had a difficult time rating The Rib King. I enjoyed the story overall but I had trouble with the pacing. It took me a little while to get into it but once I did the story became more compelling and Hubbard covers a lot of ground showing how horribly and easily Black people are exploited, mistreated, and basically robbed of credit and benefit of their own ideas, creations, and general contributions. There is a lot going on in the story and is very character driven which is a big plus for me. Th ...more
Nov 27, 2020 rated it liked it
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard. Thanks to @bookishfirst for the Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️

August Sitwell has worked for the wealthy Barclays for fifteen years. When he finds out they have lost their fortune, they set up sales of the cook’s rib sauce with August’s face on the bottle. He becomes The Rib King, but it is revealed that he has his own revenge agenda in mind.

Ladee Hubbard is obviously a very talented writer, which is why I gave this book three stars. Based on story alone, it probably would have been t
Anada Werner
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rich and layered consideration of African American historical trauma and the myriad ways Black Americans have chosen to negotiate a society that wants to disenfranchise them at best, and murder them at regular intervals. Impressed with what feels like a very fresh take on the historical fiction genre and I’m looking forward to reading Hubbard’s first book next! Was for real titillated by the swerve the storyline took near the end of the second half, and was maybe hoping for more out of the denou ...more
Samantha Fink

Thanks to Bookish-First for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review!

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This review shows my own experience; keep in mind your preferences in books may be different.

This book is definitely unique, but it was also odd. What I got wasn’t what I went in expecting. Halfway through it took a turn from historical fiction to phycological weirdness. I was expecting a little more fighting for racial equality
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I’m sort of at a loss about this book because i feel like i missed something important at some point along the way. The first half of the book was amazing. I was thoroughly compelled by Mr. Sitwell and the Barclays’ home. But when things switched to being told from Jennie’s POV, i just could not keep up. It felt like the author had a lot of pithy statements to make and just had to invent situations to have those words come up in dialogue. I couldn’t tell if the Harper situation was analogous to ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Rib King is very beautifully written. From the very beginning, I was in awe at the pacing of the story. I often get deterred from books with long chapters (example, chapter 1 of this story is 34 pages), but I was very easily intrigued by the synopsis and storytelling.

We explore this timely story from two different perspectives. Unlike many stories however, this one does not alternate by chapters, but halfway through the book. I think this was a smart choice and gave to an excellent viewpoint
Provin Martin
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard has several memorable characters and meaningful quotes! You first meet Mr. August Sitwell who has worked for the Barclays since childhood. He currently watches over the entire estate as the grounds keeper, but he has worked in almost all of the positions available. He inadvertently creates a delicious ‘meat sauce’ and becomes the face on the jar of ‘Rib King’ sauce – but he is also a murderer.

‘ Vigilance: that was what was required to keep the weeds out, what he ha
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Originally posted on Gobookmart

The Rib King : By – Ladee Hubbard is an exciting, twisting, uncovering novel, focusing in on the individual characters

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I was at first keen on The Rib King since it was contrasted with the film Parasite. While the two works center around the indignities of the class system, the unpleasant emotions the system can create in those at the lower part of the system. That is the place where the similarity end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is an exciting, twisting, uncovering novel, focusing in on the individual characters, instead of more wider struggles.

I am not commonly
Tracey Thompson
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was initially interested in The Rib King because it was compared to the movie Parasite. While both works focus on the indignities of the class system, and the bitter feelings the system can evoke in those at the bottom of the pile, that is where the similarities end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is a twisting, exciting, revealing novel, focusing on the individual characters, rather than wider struggles.

This novel took me on such a journey, it's difficult to remember how the whole thing starts
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The story of The Rib King starts in New Orleans in 1914 where we are introduced to a cast of characters who are working as the staff at the Barclay residence, a well to do White family, who has unfortunately stumbled upon some financial misfortune. The first half of the story explores themes of race relations in both the home itself and in the greater context of the setting of New Orleans itself and even further to the South Eastern area of the USA. The characters that we follow most closely in ...more
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This historical novel, The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is set in a time frame of American history that really fascinates me. Having said that, I was not disappointed and highly recommend it. I loved reading this novel, truly enjoyed the characters and storyline. The book cover is bright yellow and has an interesting appeal.

The story is set in the early twentieth century with most of the main characters being black servants. Miss Mamie, the cook, the maid, Jennie Williams, three orphan boys and Mr
Brilliant. I don't necessarily disagree with other reviewers that this one is all over the place and oddly paced, but except for the last couple of pages, it really worked for me.

Around the midpoint of the book, I explained the plot to my boyfriend and his response was, "I've never heard of a book quite like that" (being the background story of a black man/woman whose image is used to sell a product). Same - and that is part of the freshness of The Rib King. It is both historical in setting and
Jillian Mouton
Jan 14, 2021 rated it liked it
A wild story with super vivid characters! But it felt like the action was over as soon as it began. There was so much buildup, and most of the serious drama occurred off-page and was relayed to the reader after the fact. As a result, even though the story's concept was incredible, it felt weirdly clinical and anticlimactic. I actually had a lot more fun describing this wild plot to my (long-suffering) sister and watching her reactions to all the twists than I did reading it. ...more
Katie Shockey
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, owned-read
I am not typically a fan of historical fiction, so I was unsure of how much I was going to enjoy THE RIB KING. I typically gravitate towards fast-paced books so this slow burn of a novel was a nice change of pace. I enjoyed slowing down, getting to know the characters, and watching the story of The Rib King unfold.

One thing I was not expecting when I started reading the book was the switch in main character about halfway through. The first half focuses on August Sitwell--the groundskeeper-turne
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'd heard of The Talented Ribkins (which, by the way, seems to coexist in The Rib King's world) but this book is the first I've read by Ladee Hubbard.

I have to say, although the plot is compelling, Hubbard's dialogue is where this book takes off. The way her characters interact creates a distinct psychological ephemera in whichever context they're placed (from down on the Boardwalk, to inside Barclay's kitchen, to interacting with Barclay, in an apartment, etc). The setting isn't only place-dri
Jan 25, 2021 rated it liked it
I had a very hard time giving this a star review! I think 3.5, and not just a three. I don't often have this problem, but to me this was different at the beginning than it was at the end.
This book in the beginning took place in 1900 and was really a story told about August Sitwell, who worked for the "rich" Barclay's. Mr. Sitwell, is a freeman, but doesn't get paid well. While I didn't enjoy the circumstances surrounding the treatment of the Barclay's staff, and the despicable character of the
Zibby Owens
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Rib King is about an African American man who's a groundskeeper in 1914. He invents a meat sauce that becomes a national sensation and is distributed all over the country. He spends the rest of his life touring the country, giving cooking demonstrations as the Rib King.

I love how the author set the book up and showed us exactly what daily life was like in the household. The scenes are so vivid; you feel as though you're right there on the bus going home with August, traveling to see his cowo
Luca Tanaka
When they said Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite, they weren't kidding. (I haven't seen Upstairs, Downstairs, but let's call it basically Downton Abbey.) Set in early 20th century Chicago, The Rib King is a well-researched deconstruction of persistent Black stereotypes and a character study into the people behind the caricatures. In its dynamic cast, it explores the myriad reactions people can have to oppression, the lingering trauma, and the downstream effects of their actions. It has twists ...more
Di Richardson
Feb 04, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is on a lot of “best of 2020” lists. It wasn’t that for me. It has also been described as Upstairs Downstairs meets Parasite. Again, not for me. So I struggles with how to give what I think is an accurate description. It seems to be set in the early to mid 1900’s, where segregation is still pretty prevalent. The Barclay’s are an upper class white family. The household staff is all black. When their fortunes start to fall, Mr. Barclay receives an offer to purchase the recipe for a BBQ s ...more
Erricka Hager
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dang, I was hoping a lot more for this story. It sadly, never fully met my expectations.

The first half of the book was jumbled together and didn’t quite make a lot of sense to me. We are introduced to our main characters - Mr. Sitwell and Miss Jennie - who are servants to a white family in New Orleans. Mr. Sitwell has an unique talent of being able to identify ingredients that make up a variety of products - sauces, perfume, etc - and sadly that talent gets him thrown into being the racist f
Dec 17, 2020 added it
thank you to libro fm for providing me with an early audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review!

i enjoyed this listening experience! this has been comp’d to parasite, which i can definitely see from the discussions about race, class, status, and power. i will say i liked the first half of the story significantly more than the second half- i was more invested in the original story than i was the follow up to the events. i also kind of feel like the synopsis given for this is not exactly wha
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults
A Bold and Memorable Tale This ambitious novel The Rib King covers a lot of ground under the umbrella of American history, race relations, and social commentary. What I liked about the book was that the commentary was not heavy handed but a viable part of the plot with facts woven in to the conversations of very believable characters in the early 1900's. Mr. Pound and Mr. Barclay, for example, are Southern white men who openly discuss the characteristics of good servants; the poor Irish "often ...more
Jan 26, 2021 is currently reading it
Intriguing story of race relations in the early 20th century that revolves around a recipe for rib sauce that was appropriated from the creator, Mamie, who ran the Barclays’ kitchen as their main cook. August Sitwell, another servant of the household, was used as the marketing caricature for the rib sauce. He, along with Mamie, were never given credit, and so also did not profit from the rib sauce sales, leading to immense hatred for the family who stole the recipe. Dire consequences happen due ...more
Lynne Perednia
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Excellent historical novel about two Black domestic workers whose likenesses end up on product labels in the early 20th century and how they got there. A fascinating, well-written book.
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading through the characters lives, however, I did not find the style of writing to allow it to be an easy read. I found myself questioning who we were talking about often until I really got into the groove of the book, by then the book was almost over.

The story line itself was masterful and relevant to today. The lack of credit for the correct people and the racial social classes that people fell into created food for thought. I began relating it to modern times and trying t
Amanda Lyons
Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book when I saw it. I thought the plot sounded interesting. Just a head's up, this book has longgggg chapters. And I found the writing style to be a little confusing at times and had to go back a few sentences to figure out who was speaking (whether it was August Sitwell, or someone he was talking to). But I still managed to read through the first half of the book in one sitting. I think I was hoping for more details to emerge that would draw things t ...more
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Bookish First Rea...: The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard 3 14 Sep 22, 2020 10:15AM  

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Ladee Hubbard was born in Massachusetts, raised in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands and currently lives in New Orleans with her husband and three children. She received a B.A. from Princeton University, a Ph.D. from the University of California-Los Angeles, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published short fiction in the Beloit Fiction Journal a ...more

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