The Fisher King by Paule Marshall

By Lise Funderburg


Eight-year-old Sonny and his guardian, Hattie Carmichael, leave hardscrabble lives in Paris to attend a posthumous tribute in Brooklyn to his grandfather (and her former intime). In the 1950s, Sonny’s grandfather found fame and temporary refuge from racism playing jazz in France; finally his hometown is giving him his due. But instead of a joyous reunion, Sonny encounters a multigenerational feud, which Marshall unfolds by moving deftly between present and past. If her narrative occasionally swerves into Young Adult territory, it’s not at the sacrifice of complex characters or her longstanding themes: the fundamental human desire to belong — to a place or a people — and the fratricidal discord between American-born and West Indian blacks.