Asim, Jabari. Only the Strong: An American Novel
LJ Reviews 2015 April #2
This debut novel by Emerson College professor Asim (The N Word) vitalizes a fictionalized 1970 St. Louis offering three separate but connected stories filled with fully realized characters and settings. In one, "bone-crusher" Guts Tolliver petitions his boss, gangster-businessman Ananias Goode, for less crushing and comes to run a taxi company; in another, Goode begins a torrid affair with prominent doctor Artinces Noel; and in yet another, Noel's "ward" falls under the spell of college and a charismatic but damaged young man. Characters weave in and out, held together by ongoing sidelights such as slugger Rip Crenshaw's stolen World Series ring, taken by the brother of one of three girls who roll the first baseman, who's convinced that the ring gave him magical powers. The last few pages bring things together nicely, including Crenshaw and his ring. VERDICT Asim's first novel is being compared to work by writers such as Richard Russo and Stuart Dybek because of the strong sense of community. A better comparison would be the successfully rendered Washington of George Pelecanos, except that the characters here are black and most (but not all) of the violence occurs offstage. But, readers drawn to any of these writers will appreciate this excellent piece of urban realism.—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY[Page 73]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.