I think I am a little scarred by this one. This was my mom’s last pick of her two to get caught up and it was…mind blowing I think is the best description. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the implications of the novel and I doubt I’ll ever fully grasp it all. Specially since the prompt was so innocent.
A book about food: Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Eddie, Darlene, Scotty. Three main characters in a book so profound that your head will be left reeling upon completion.
The book begins with Eddie, a young man in his teens, driving as fast as he can in a stolen car, without hands. How he came to be missing both his hands is not revealed at this point and who he is running from is equally well obscured. All the reader knows in the beginning is that Eddie is running towards St. Cloud, MN and his estranged Aunt who he hopes will be his salvation.
The book then jumps back in time to introduce Eddie’s mother, Darlene, who enters the novel making one bad decision after another. She meets her husband when she steals him from a sorority sister, gets run off the college campus and follows him on his idealistic and naive dreams of being a small town African American activist in the racist south.
When her husband is brutally murdered for his speaking out against the white politicians in his small town, Scotty enters the picture and remains the voice of Darlene throughout the remainder of the novel. Scotty is Darlene’s method of escaping the brutality of her recent past and she loses her mind and body to it: crack cocaine.
Bad decisions begin to pile up and eventually lead Darlene to being fooled into entering a minibus and signing a contract to work on a farm: Delicious Foods. Once she arrives she finds out that the contract is really her enslavement, that those who run the farm are vicious and cruel and that there is no escaping. However, being paid with cocaine isn’t so bad after all and Darlene begins to wonder if she really wants to leave.
From the very first pages, this novel is haunting and difficult to read yet also difficult to put down. It is an expose on destructive behaviors, how the hopeless manage to survive and modern day slavery and exploitation. I was never able to fully glean what era the book was set in: post Vietnam War, but pre-modern age. Somewhere in the 70s and early 80s, I believe.
Darlene as a character is hard to sympathize with. The loss of her husband turns her from her son and onto the streets as a prostitute looking for any way to earn enough money to get more cocaine. Her treatment of her son borders abusive, but is more neglectful than anything. Some deep part of her knows that her actions, her addiction, is wrong and that she has gone far astray of the path both she and her beloved husband wanted for her, however she is unable to turn back onto it.
Eddie is only 6 years old in the early part of the book and has to grow up fast. He never fully understands what the death of his father means and he has no good adult in his life to teach him. His mother is lost to cocaine, his aunt turns her back on them both as punishment to Darlene, and even his neighbors find him more trouble than they care to deal with. When he finds his way to Delicious Foods, he finds his own form of salvation although it comes at a great cost.
This book will remain with you once you have finished it. I will warn you that there is foul language, violence and sex throughout. If it had a rating, it would be R. The text can be hard to follow when written from the cocaine’s voice and made the flow hesitant and hard to grasp although this was likely intentional and showed the fragmented brain of those under the spell of the drug.