Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

Title: Delicious Foods
Author: James Hannaham
Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5 / 5

Goodreads | Powell’s

You guys, this book is good! Like, really really good!! Out of the ~40 books I’ve read so far this year, there’s only one that matches my level of feels for Delicious Foods. What’s so great about it? Um, everything! On my positives/negatives tally, there are literally zero things under the negative side. I finished it and I had to run outside to gush to Peter.

Okay, let me back up. The book drops you right in the middle of the climax of the story. The first two sentences are: “After escaping from the farm, Eddie drove through the night. Sometimes he thought he could feel his phantom fingers brushing against his thighs, but above the wrists he now had nothing.” Why does Eddie need to escape from a farm, and what just happened to his hands?

This book covers themes of love, time, circumstance, family, addiction, the human condition… as well as some of my “favorites,” power, domination, and the big one—the one that all the others in this book seem to hinge on—racism.

I appreciated the the book’s themes and the way the author tackled them. The story was good, “meaning good like journalists say it—a real bad nightmare for the motherfucker it happen to, but good to write down and put in a goddamn newspaper for some idiots to gape at,” in the words of one of the characters. That said, the stories the book tells are hard to hear and might be hard for some people to believe, even though parts of the book mirror real events (warning: if you like to go into books knowing almost nothing about them, that link may contain what you would consider to be spoilers, although they’re probably of the book jacket sort). Besides being “true” in that sense, I appreciated Hannaham’s commentary; he has a lot to say about exploitation and race, and it is definitely relevant. The book is filled with great characters, well drawn and developed. I also really liked the writing, which could be quite creative—some of the chapters are told in the voice of crack cocaine. This book tells a heartbreaking story—many heartbreaking stories, actually. It is compassionate but honest, and it never goes for sentimentality. Although it is a pretty simple story, there is so much in here that is complex. I was surprised at how it made me laugh at times, even though none of what happens could be described as “funny.” Hannaham said in an interview, “It’s always kind of bothered me that people think of serious literature as literature that doesn’t make any jokes.” It is a serious book about serious things, and joking about it—at least in the way Hannaham does it—does not make it less serious or the events less horrific; it’s just a reflection of real life where people use humor to try to cope with horrible things, even if it’s absurd, even if it doesn’t change a thing or even help the situation.

I recommend this book without qualification. There is one part in particular that contains pretty graphic violence; if that’s too much, I’m pretty sure most readers will be able to see it coming and be able to skip those few paragraphs. There’s no reason not to read it. The book has a lot of depth, Hannaham has a lot to say, but the story works as a story first and foremost, and the writing itself goes down pretty easily. I am already thinking of all the people I want to gift this book to—needless to say, I really liked it.

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