Navidad Thélamour's Reviews > Restoration Heights

Restoration Heights by Wil Medearis
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really liked it
bookshelves: netgalley, contemporary-fiction, cultural-surveys, mysteries, read-2019

4.5 stars!

The white kids will complain—another bullshit corporate condominium, destroying the neighborhood—but those same white kids will move in. I never thought I’d live in a place like this but, ugh, I need a dishwasher. And I hate laundromats. All my friends are here and besides, the design fits the neighborhood, not like those other buildings, plus a doorman. All the cachet of the neighborhood and none of the hassles. The guilty thrill of being surrounded by blackness without having to live like them. Not separate but unequal.

Wil Medearis’s debut novel, Restoration Heights, cleverly weaves together the lives of the wealthy and the destitute, the disenfranchised and the entitled, and the color lines between black and white into a sublimely realistic portrait of the class and race divisions in this country, as seen through the lens of gentrified Bed-Stuy, New York. More than that, though, this novel is a thrilling page-turner with a protagonist you can root for and supporting characters who aren’t often what they seem.

Leaving aside the summary of this novel, as the description blurb is wholly accurate, Restoration Heights was a delightfully surprising find for me. In many ways, it reminded me of Sam Graham-Felsen’s Green , published in 2018, in that it is a novel written by a young white man about the experiences of living in the middle of a mostly minority neighborhood. Medearis’s protagonist, Reddick, not only identifies with the neighborhood and feels wholly at home there, but he embarks on a search to find a missing woman he met only briefly the night before that ultimately forces him to confront his place within that neighborhood—and within society’s stone-set caste system as well. And as he explores economic disparities and racial tensions in the inner-city, Reddick, who constantly mentions his part African-American grandfather in innocent attempts at proving his authenticity, finds himself at the heart of a makeshift investigation of a young woman’s disappearance—a young woman who’s engaged to an old-money Upper East Side scion but is last seen drunk with two black men in Bed-Stuy. This such racial and class tensions in play, the stakes have never been higher.

I’ve got some sorry news. There is no people. That’s the hardest lesson this country taught me. It is the heart of my success. You want this to be a community but it’s only a territory. Individuals stuck in the same place, battered by the same forces.

Medearis shines in this debut as an emerging author who understands both the obvious and unspoken rules of various caste systems that converge in our society. He explores them skillfully through a fluid intermixing of characters who can use “slang so thick it bordered on code” side by side with those who own William Merritt Chase paintings and drink from Wedgwood cups. The way they brush against each other is both believable and simultaneously flushed with the acridity one would expect from such interactions. At the same time, Medearis does manage to bring something new to the table: He manages to both stun and thrill with unexpected plot twists and characters who are life-sized and realistic. While you’ll find a few well-known typecasts within these pages, Medearis manages to give them more dimension, life and bite; they never fall into the category of played-out stereotypes and that I appreciated. Restorations Heights offers addictive and authentic prose that moves in cadence with the realism of our everyday lives and interactions with the world around us, something I look for in contemporary writing. Thus, Wil Medearis won me over, and I give his debut novel 4.5 stars.


*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, Hanover Square Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Reading Progress

September 11, 2018 – Shelved
September 11, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
September 11, 2018 – Shelved as: netgalley
January 18, 2019 – Started Reading
January 29, 2019 –
47.0%
February 10, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
February 10, 2019 – Shelved as: cultural-surveys
February 10, 2019 – Shelved as: mysteries
February 10, 2019 – Shelved as: read-2019
February 10, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Looking forward to your thoughts Navidad. Just read a review in NY Times Book Review. I will wait to add to my tbr....


message 2: by Ilyse (new) - added it

Ilyse thanks! this was a maybe tbr, you're persuading me


message 3: by Brandon (new) - added it

Brandon Christian Good review. Thanks for being completely honest, and stating that you were given a copy for review.


Navidad Thélamour Brandon wrote: "Good review. Thanks for being completely honest, and stating that you were given a copy for review."

Thanks, Brandon!


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