A journalist comes to terms with the murder his beloved older brother committed, and a family tries to find some sort of redemption.
Bailey refuses to make things easy for either his readers or himself; he avoids pat analysis of the scourge of racism and never settles for simple answers. He implicates himself from the start, confessing that he had felt like murdering his wife and that he was enraged beyond reason at his teenage son, fearing that he would mature into the stereotype of a black thug so feared by society. The author admits that he resisted dating one woman to whom he was otherwise attracted because she was too dark and that he went to a predominantly white college rather than a historically black one even as he resented the entitlement and privilege surrounding him. If racism is partly responsible for the fate of men like Moochie, it could have just as easily been him. Instead, he has been left with what has been diagnosed as PTSD from his brother’s incarceration as well as a stutter that he has spent a lifetime trying to overcome. It is difficult to wrench these particulars into a conventional fable or morality tale, and the author doesn’t try. Instead, he wrestles with confusion and the contradiction of “how to love a murderer without excusing the murder.” Moochie had been a father figure to his younger brother, protecting their mother against the brutalities of the older man who had taken her as his child bride. He murdered a white man brutally and senselessly and has been sentenced to life in prison, where his attitudes on race have hardened. His brother became a journalist, writing about poverty and crime and racism for a predominantly white readership. At first, he wanted to deny Moochie’s guilt and prove his innocence, but then he had to make some sort of peace with what Moochie did and try to rise above it.
There’s a catharsis for all by the end but no smooth path or easy arrival.