In Reeves’ debut satire on race relations in America, white medical student Beau Peebles can’t help but be overly involved in his poor, black patients’ lives.
“This book is nothing if not a coming-of-age story,” says Beau, a narrator always aware that he’s writing his “true” story and that you’re reading it. His story is much more than a man’s life; it’s a satirical look at philosophy, the health care industry, socioeconomics and, above all, race relations. Leaving Princeton’s ivory-tower idealism to begin his third year of medical school rotations at a clinic in a not-so-great part of Dallas, Beau is overwhelmed by the poor people he serves. After delivering a baby to a 15-year-old girl, struggling to comprehend her life and afraid that he will spend the rest of his career despising the people he serves, Beau says: “I also learned at Princeton that if one disliked someone or something…it was probably owed to ignorance. Conversely, if one achieved understanding, one ceased to dislike. Or ceased to judge or to fear.” Compelled to understand, Beau lies about a government study and moves in with the girl’s family in the projects, intending to stay as long as possible while using his Family Therapy for African-Americans textbook as a guide. From there, Beau’s odyssey only gets weirder as he expands African-American observation to include emulation with the help of a liberal amount of shoe polish and the shortening of his name to “Bo.” Meanwhile, Beau’s pursuit of a pretty girl gets him involved with a cadre of actors and artists who embark on lengthy debates about philosophy and Tocqueville’s complex view of America. Beau uses notes to jog his memory, written on everything from hospital forms to candy bar wrappers, which he shares in the text along with rap lyrics and poetry. It’s a unique, useful format that allows Reeves the room he needs to explore and explain, letting readers hear the follies of the younger Beau while gaining the wisdom of his months-older self. Reeves also uses the format as a way of showing, in unflattering detail, how invasive and Orwellian the double-think of political correctness can be. Everything from the augmented stream-of-consciousness style to Bo’s attempts at an African-American dialect is brilliantly done, though some sections go on longer than necessary. Frequently funny and always uncomfortably honest, this book knows it will offend some readers but sits at the front of the bus anyway.
Solid satire built on a deliciously farcical plot; only chumps would miss it.