FORTY ACRES by Dwayne Alexander Smith


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Screenwriter Smith tackles the brutality of slavery in this debut novel.

Up-and-coming attorney Martin Grey is involved in the trial of his career, a racial discrimination case that pits the young lawyer against another black attorney, Damon Darrell, a Johnnie Cochran–type with a reputation for winning. Much to everyone’s surprise, Martin manages to snatch victory in court, instantly catapulting himself into the limelight and into a new and prestigious circle of friends, which includes Damon. Those friends are rich and powerful African-American men with beautiful wives, prestige, lots of money, and a deep, dark secret that they share. When Martin is invited to tag along for a weekend of whitewater rafting, his wife, Anna, begs him not to go. She thinks it’s dangerous and isn’t comfortable with his newfound buddies. But Martin goes anyway, assuring Anna he'll be fine. Anna doesn’t buy it, though, and after digging around on the Internet, she finds that a famous novelist died on one of the group’s trips. Her fears are well-seated. When Martin steps off the private jet that whisked them to the private stronghold where these men spend their vacations, he discovers they're harboring a secret that could bring down their whole world: The compound, called Forty Acres, is much more than a retreat; it's a prison camp for dozens of whites held against their wills and forced to work for their black overlords, as a way for African-Americans to exact revenge for slavery. Smith’s screenwriting roots are evident from the first paragraph—he writes for actors, not for readers. Action-oriented but short on character development, the tale Smith spins is earnest but contrived and laced with clumsy sex as well as murky philosophical meanderings.

While inventive, Smith’s writing lacks the polish and depth this plot needs to succeed.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-3053-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2014


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