Lucius – Matthew Lieberman

luciusMordecai “Tree” Weissman is a reliable narrator. He has the quietly authoritative and credible voice of a storyteller. He has integrity, in two senses of the word. He seems like a truthful and trustworthy person, who has no sinister or ulterior motives; he also relates a story that is integrated, solid, complete. This story needs Tree, because Benno – the man who relates the story of Lucius to Mordecai – seems like an utterly unreliable narrator. Benno is a spoiled old white southerner who claims to have held Lucius in slavery for most of the 20th Century. He may be a braggart, or mendacious, or mentally ill. The fact that we never get to meet Lucius creates a greater sense of skepticism about Benno’s tale. It all seems incredible. Yet throughout the story, unlikely events are presented beside unlikely events that we know to be true, making the reader wonder whether or not it might all be true. A simple example: Benno and Lucius have to run away from a violent racist gang. Which 80-year-old can run that fast? Yet the meeting that they disturbed – a Klan meeting in the 21st Century, attended by relatively-educated people – that is the detail that seems shockingly incredble. And yet, we know that it is true. Many of the unlikely and bizarre events of the book are juxtaposed with happenings that are incredible, but that are true. It’s a thought-provoking and unsettling book, related by masterful storyteller.

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