A LUCKY MAN by Jamel Brinkley
Kirkus Star


Email this review


An assured debut collection of stories about men and women, young and old, living and loving along the margins in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

In “I Happy Am,” one of nine tales Brinkley spins here about dreamers constricted or confounded by realities, Freddy is a young black boy from the Bronx who, at least for the length of the trip his summer camp is taking to the suburbs, imagines himself as a superpowered robot. Upon finding the house his camp is visiting to be “a bigger version of the apartment where [he] lived,” Freddy begins to wonder whether real life “spoke…to what his imagination guarded”: that there may be more potential for wonder and mystery beyond his dream life. This story shares with the others a preoccupation with characters’ reckoning with unfulfilled promises and unrecognized possibilities. The title of “J’ouvert, 1996” refers to an all-night revel originating at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza during which a teenage boy, his wide-eyed younger brother in tow, intends to find, and assert, a grown-up self. In “A Family,” an ex-convict grapples tentatively, even a bit reluctantly, with the idea of becoming a lover to the widow of his closest friend. The title story is about a middle-aged man who believes his wife has left him and taken whatever luck he could claim with her, while “Infinite Happiness” navigates the dicey emotional maze of a lopsided romantic triangle playing out in the promised land of present-day Brooklyn. It’s difficult to single out any story as most outstanding since they are each distinguished by Brinkley’s lyrical invention, precise descriptions of both emotional and physical terrain, and a prevailing compassion toward people as bemused by travail as they are taken aback by whatever epiphanies blossom before them.

A major talent.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-55597-805-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2018


FictionFRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
FictionPRETEND I'M DEAD by Jen  Beagin
by Jen Beagin
FictionWHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS by Chaya Bhuvaneswar
by Chaya Bhuvaneswar


NonfictionIMPOSSIBLE OWLS by Brian Phillips
by Brian Phillips
FictionTHIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Díaz
by Junot Díaz