One of my favorite books from 2020 was Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby. I reviewed it here. Based on my strong recommendation, my sister Bec read it. I asked her what she thought, and she told me, though she thought the writing was amazing, the story was too depressing for this period when life itself is difficult. Fair enough, I told her. But I went on, I have a book recommendation for you that will be perfect.
I had just finished reading The Authenticity Project, and the delightful story of friendship and, well authenticity, left me feeling good about the world. I knew it would strike the perfect cord for her and anyone else who needs cheering up during this difficult period. The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, is story of unrelated people with secrets to share who find each other through a notebook,
Septuagenarian Julian Jessop is an artist who has been driven crazy from loneliness since his wife died. Even after five years, he mostly stays in his junky apartment and has pushed away all of his former friends. He is convinced that everyone is living a false life what with Instagram and Twitter and Tik Tok. So he decides to create the Authenticity Project. Using a plain lined spiral notebook, he explains that whoever finds the notebook should write the TRUE story of his or her life. He starts it off by writing about his own sadness at the loss of his wife. He drops it off in a nearby coffee shop.
Monica — the owner of the shop — finds the notebook, and decides to participate. She writes her truth, and leaves it out on a table. From there, the notebook begins its journey that ends up changing people’s lives.
The book’s premise is interesting, and the author’s characters are quirky and unforgettable. There is a drug and alcohol addict who is determined to change his life by sobering up. There is a new mother who is exhausted from caring for her baby, but paints a perfect life on Instagram. You get the picture. The notebook encourages honesty.
The Authenticity Project was a pleasant read, and left me thinking about characters in a way I normally don’t.
Here is a link to the book.
I waited a long time on the library ebook hold to finally get Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby. I’m not even sure why I put it on hold. It must have come up in one of the reading blogs that I get each day. But then I noticed it was one of Goodreads’ finalists for best mystery/thriller book of the year and I became more interested.
Book reviewers call this book a thriller. I wouldn’t, however, want to put off people who aren’t into books that keep you up at night. Unless you want to be kept up at night reading this book. Because Blacktop Wasteland is so much more than an exciting thriller. It is the story of being Black and poor in the southern United States, and how difficult it is to reach the American Dream that we all hope for.
Beauregard Montage is known throughout the southeastern United States as the best getaway driver around. He knows everything about cars, and can drive like an Indie car driver, cleverly escaping cops.
But now he is married and has children and obligations. He wants to play it straight. He owns a car repair shop that is barely scraping by, and he is unable to keep up with his financial needs. His mother is in a nursing home. He has a family to feed. He wants to send his daughter to college and get her away from the abject poverty and racism they face each day in the small Mississippi town in which they live.
He gives in to the temptation offered by someone still in “the life.” He agrees to be the wheelman for one last robbery — that of a jewelry store getting a shipment of priceless diamonds.
Unfortunately, there are things that Beauregard doesn’t know about this store and this diamond shipment. The result is a complicated mess that changes his life altogether and makes him realize just how hard it is to go straight.
Blacktop Wasteland is dark and gritty. But Cosby’s story made me want to pick up the book to read even in the middle of the night. In the midst of what is happening today in the United States, it hits very close to home.
Blacktop Wasteland might end up being my favorite book of 2020.
Here is a link to the book.