The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead

I think this book might be the definition of ‘rewarding’. Every chapter is a struggle not because of the writing style, which is clear and straightforward, but because the content is so sad. There’s little hope for the characters; it’s clear that nothing will get better for them. But as a reader it’s an opportunity to learn about a dark part of America’s history and present. It’s challenging, but you come out of it angry and armed with knowledge.


He spent another five days in the hospital, then it was back with the other Nickel boys. School and work. He was one of them now in many ways, including his embrace of silence. When his grandmother came to visit, he couldn’t tell her what he saw when Dr Cooke removed the dressings and he walked the cold tile to the bathroom. Elwood got a look at himself then and knew that her heart wouldn’t be able to take it, plus his shame in letting it happen. He was as far away from her as the others in her family who’d vanished and he was sitting right in front of her. On visiting day, he told her he was okay but sad, it was difficult but he was hanging in there, when all he wanted to say was, Look at what they did to me, look at what they did to me.

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