Dear Great Book Guru, I am still finding it hard to concentrate during the pandemic. Is there something short and relevant you could suggest? Distracted Reader
Dear Distracted Reader, I just read a remarkable book - BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by Jacqueline Woodson. It is a 179-page novel in verse told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy. ZJ is the son of Zachariah Johnson, a legendary professional football player beloved by all because of his prowess, warmth, and intelligence. He had to retire in his early thirties because of brain damage caused by the brutal pummeling he received throughout his career. When we meet him, he is a shattered man with trembling hands, uncontrollable rages, and severe memory loss. ZJ alternated stories of their past happiness - his pride in being the son of this strong, kind, wealthy, handsome hero - with tales of his father not remembering his name, sleeping for days on end and fighting invisible enemies. Woodson captures the boy’s bewilderment and despair as each encounter brings more pain. She skillfully combines the personal tragedy of this man and his family with the overarching story of the exploitation of Black athletes. She has done a remarkable job in capturing the short-lived glory of the Before and the everlasting pain of the Ever After. Written to appeal to a teen audience, this book is a perfect choice for adults also. Highly recommended!