Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: The Last Block in Harlem

Author: Christopher Herz
Title: The Last Block in Harlem
Pages: ?....read on Kindle App

Amazon Description

Book Description: All fire escapes lead back to the same block in Sugar Hill, Harlem- where kids run through hydrants and music blares from stereos plugged into lampposts. When a new resident (the story's unnamed narrator) notices the trash polluting the picturesque streets and tainting the block's beauty, he is spurred to action. However, his best intentions go awry when the clean-up brings media coverage that in turn, sets off a rash of evictions and ushers in an influx of new and affluent tenants. In an attempt to preserve his neighborhood, the tenant mobilizes a grassroots effort to improve the neighborhood from the inside out.

Realizing he has yet again polluted his reality with unintended consequences, his fight to clean up the block evolves into a quest to cleanse his soul. The choices he makes cannot change the past and the secrets that haunt him, but will alter the future for himself, his family...and the last block in Harlem.

My Thoughts

I was nervous to read this book. Why? I came in contact with this wonderful author via Twitter. Twitter has consumed my life and through some connection(I don't remember anymore) we formed a Twitter friendship where we were sharing ideas, thoughts, etc. like millions of people do on Twitter all the time. Through reading his blog and conversing via Twitter I had grown a much needed respect for Christopher Herz and therefore put myself in a bind. If I did not like the book I would feel terrible for not liking it being that I have liked everything else he has written and created online. 

Well, I am here to tell you that I really enjoyed his novel. I found it to be quite compelling and fascinating. It was a novel that had me stop to ponder my own life. Those books are needed to remind us of what is really important in life.

As I read about the narrator and his life events I was never quite sure if I liked him or not. That is a good main character because he had good qualities, but was flawed like every other human on the planet. I constantly struggled with his self absorption and not providing more sentiments to his wife, but also realized that he had given up so much for her to be where she was in her job.

As the story unfolded, I just had to know how it would pan out. I never saw the ending coming at all. It caught me off guard.

I took many things away from this novel. I highlighted several passages that stood out to me that carried meaning to me personally.

“We’d just be exchanging problems then,”
but not knowing is worse. Nothing worse than guessing at reality.”

Life’s hardly long enough to spend time not liking what you do.”
“Why don’t you go on and do something about it,”
You just have to keep going and not let someone else decide for you.”
There’s no nobility in carrying your past with each step you take.”
“You know, we all have the same time in one day. What you do with it is the only thing different about us. Don’t believe what anyone tells you is impossible.“There is nothing worse than turning away from some thing that is wrong. However, if you constantly go looking for something that is wrong, you will find yourself in the dark places. The problem with that is in the dark, you never see it clearly life.
We are all—all—a part of someone’s vision, it’s just that you have to be an expert in what you want to control. Being that you’re out here in the daytime, looks like you’re just controlling yourself.”
Each time you give in like that, each time you back away from something you believe in, a piece of you dies that can never be brought back to life. Don’t let anyone tell you not to care. It all matters. Everything.

I finished this book and have made sure I have taken time to show my kids and wife how much I love them. I finished this book looking to make a positive change and not for selfish reasons. More importantly, I am very curious to know the stories all around me. I have neighbors, but don't know much about them. Yes, we exchange small talk and Christmas cookies, but do I really know them? No. I feel the need to take time to listen and hear the stories floating all around me. Maybe one day this will lead to that novel that I want to write that just lies dormant in my mind.

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