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Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her. Delicious Foods tells the Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her. Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene's haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.


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Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her. Delicious Foods tells the Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her. Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene's haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.

30 review for Delicious Foods

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    …what's helpless always gon take the biggest part of the rage. 4.5-5 stars your response to the opening scene of this book is a pretty good indicator of whether or not this book is for you: a young man named eddie with (very) recently amputated hands drives a car towards an unknown location, fleeing an unknown situation, struggling to deal with both the horrors he has witnessed and the struggle of manipulating objects with his tender stumps. if you think "awesome! tell me more!", welcome to …what's helpless always gon take the biggest part of the rage. 4.5-5 stars your response to the opening scene of this book is a pretty good indicator of whether or not this book is for you: a young man named eddie with (very) recently amputated hands drives a car towards an unknown location, fleeing an unknown situation, struggling to deal with both the horrors he has witnessed and the struggle of manipulating objects with his tender stumps. if you think "awesome! tell me more!", welcome to delicious foods. if you think "guh-ross! that sounds horrifying!", you are correct, but should probably steer clear. for me, this scene was the best intro to a book ever, and i was instantly engaged, wanting to know more. the big hook to this novel is that it is a story of modern slavery, based on real but stranger-than-fiction circumstances, in which one-third of the narrative is delivered by crack. which is interesting, sure, but i've encountered plenty of anthropomorphism in my reading, and it was this opening scene, more than the novelty of a drug being given a voice (although it is, unsurprisingly, a seductively charming voice) that kept me hooked. the story jumps around between the voices of eddie, his mother darlene, and "scotty" a.k.a. crack. after the sudden death of eddie's father, darlene deals with her grief through the sweet oblivion of narcotics, which casual self-medicating eventually escalates to crack. from that point on, it is a familiar story. crack does what crack does, and when darlene doesn't come home one night, eleven-year-old eddie finds himself walking the streets where women walk the streets, searching for her. darlene, however, has been lured off of those streets and into a van with similarly beaten-down, supposedly unmissable men and women, and promised a job on a farm, where her expenses will be taken care of and she will be given lodgings, good pay, and more crack for hard but rewarding work. attracted to the possibility of improving her situation for herself and for eddie, darlene goes along, only to find herself held as a virtual prisoner in squalid surroundings, kept docile with a constant supply of drugs, and accruing debts far outstripping what she earns for her backbreaking labors on the farm. this book covers a lot of ground. it is a survival story, a family story, a story of grief and its aftermath, race and love and the undocumented disenfranchised, and how slippery is that slope. it's a strange little book. it is both bleak and hopeful and occasionally very funny, such as when eddie is wondering if he has died, and is just waiting to be given either a robe or horns and a tail: …he had learned while following his mother around that anything you needed from a white person at a desk always took extra time and required you to sign a lot of papers. and the scene in which we find out the circumstances leading to the loss of eddie's hands is perfect grim slapstick. i wasn't crazy about the final 1/4 of the book - there is a change in circumstance that i was really hoping would go in more of a v.c. andrews/gothic direction, but didn't, and after that point the characters' motivations became a little blurry to me. but for the most part, this was a fantastic and gripping read, and one of those books whose central themes of dignity and redemption and the tenacity of love and the human spirit are utterly compelling and necessary. oh, and that cover!! must be nice to have kara walker as your cousin, amiright? come to my blog!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Any critic saying this novel is funny is full of s#!t. This is Sad, Serious stuff. The kind that the literati rejoice over. The kind that they'll swiftly (rightfully) recommend to you... I fell quite hard for this one. It's grueling & awful; it's "The Color Purple" for a new generation. That crack cocaine is a character in itself is masterful (one is quick to relate this type of effect with "The Book Thief"'s omniscient master narrator: Death). That today slavery is alive and well is Any critic saying this novel is funny is full of s#!t. This is Sad, Serious stuff. The kind that the literati rejoice over. The kind that they'll swiftly (rightfully) recommend to you... I fell quite hard for this one. It's grueling & awful; it's "The Color Purple" for a new generation. That crack cocaine is a character in itself is masterful (one is quick to relate this type of effect with "The Book Thief"'s omniscient master narrator: Death). That today slavery is alive and well is atrocious. That people love and hate with equal facility is a wonder to behold. That this book exists gives us all a reason to celebrate (well, at least READ it all the way through...). "Delicious Foods" is the BEST NOVEL I've read ALL YEAR*!!! * August of 2016

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    I barely caught my breath from reading T. Geronimo Johnson’s “Welcome to Braggsville” before I plunged into James Hannaham’s “Delicious Foods,” another sensational new novel about the tenacity of racism and its bizarre permutations. These two African American men — both in their mid-40s, both on their second novel — bounce off the page with the sharpest, wittiest, most unsettling cultural criticism I’ve read in years. Johnson, whose novel I reviewed last month, is the master ironist, with an I barely caught my breath from reading T. Geronimo Johnson’s “Welcome to Braggsville” before I plunged into James Hannaham’s “Delicious Foods,” another sensational new novel about the tenacity of racism and its bizarre permutations. These two African American men — both in their mid-40s, both on their second novel — bounce off the page with the sharpest, wittiest, most unsettling cultural criticism I’ve read in years. Johnson, whose novel I reviewed last month, is the master ironist, with an acrobatic style that will give you vertigo. But Hannaham, a former editor at Salon, is an even more propulsive storyteller. In the opening lines of “Delicious Foods,” you hear an author determined to make you put down your iPhone, shut up and listen. . . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/enterta...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    This one is gonna win some prizes; it's very good. Review forthcoming in an actual publication, Bookforum.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I really wish this seemed more improbable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    The book all the cool kids will be reading in 2015 partially narrated by everyone's friend, Crack Cocaine.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    3.5 Stars I seem to spend a lot of time in my reviews saying that whatever book I've just finished was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be. Maybe I'm not reading the descriptions thoroughly? For whatever reason, we will be continuing with that theme, as Delicious Foods was absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be. I thought -- wrongly -- that this would be whimsical! Magical! Not brutal, searing, and heartbreaking! I blame the cover. This book is . . . Brutal. Searing. 3.5 Stars I seem to spend a lot of time in my reviews saying that whatever book I've just finished was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be. Maybe I'm not reading the descriptions thoroughly? For whatever reason, we will be continuing with that theme, as Delicious Foods was absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be. I thought -- wrongly -- that this would be whimsical! Magical! Not brutal, searing, and heartbreaking! I blame the cover. This book is . . . Brutal. Searing. Heartbreaking. Also amazingly well written and compelling, but so gut wrenching that I had to literally force myself to read it, marking out each chapter as a goal to finish. Invariably, I would get caught up in the story and read well past my goal, but every single time I put this book down, I had a hard time picking it up again. I'm a bit of a Pollyanna. I'm naive. I'm optimistic. This book threw a bucket of freezing, filthy water over all of that. It made me feel . . . hopeless. And sad. And enraged. It made me want to change the entire world and take those in power to task for creating such a miserable, screwed up system where those at the bottom cannot even dream of making their lives any better, where "better" doesn't even begin to look as good as the WORST day I've ever had in my life. And then it made me despair of ever being able to change even the slightest thing. So where does that leave me? In life, still trying to figure it all out. With this book . . . conflicted. It probably deserves 5 stars, for the beautiful writing and the characters who will stick with me, perhaps for a lifetime. But did I "like" this book? No. And I feel so unfair even saying that. But my tastes run towards whimsical and magical. I read to escape everyday life, not to examine it. To fault the author for that doesn't seem right, somehow -- I'm just not the right reader for this book. Having said that, though, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who -- strike that, I'll just recommend this book to everyone. It really is worth the read, and those who don't mind a sharp dose of reality will probably rate it much higher than I did.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    catching up on reviews, Now that I have gotten a bed A very original and creative plot, a dark comedy using every racial stereotype that can be misconstrued, and a narrator named "Scotty" crack cocaine speaking for Darlene. This book starts off with a very shocking revelation and we learn how, "Scotty" managed to get such a hold on Darlene, to the point where she is able to almost completely forget her son. At one point this reminded me of the Goldie Hawn movie, Private Benjamin, where she is catching up on reviews, Now that I have gotten a bed A very original and creative plot, a dark comedy using every racial stereotype that can be misconstrued, and a narrator named "Scotty" crack cocaine speaking for Darlene. This book starts off with a very shocking revelation and we learn how, "Scotty" managed to get such a hold on Darlene, to the point where she is able to almost completely forget her son. At one point this reminded me of the Goldie Hawn movie, Private Benjamin, where she is promised a condoms, vacation pay and other outrageous perks to join the army. Here Darlene is promised starred accommodation, deluxe pay with benefits, and unlimited , Scotty. Trouble is it's not real, but the drug sure makes up for a lot. Promises forgetfulness, a food time when catching watermelons. Black humor for sure. Cleverly done, yes but maybe a little too clever at times, found it was getting to over done, irksome instead of entertaining. Such a fine line for an author to draw. But for me it was the raw and outpouring honesty of grief, the hopelessness of regaining all that was lost, a happy family, son and mother torn apart by a death and a drug that took this to a different level. How hard it is to rise again, to feel hope, even just to feel at all. How much easier to just call on ,"Scottie", so pain can be eased. This was a very good character study, using outrageous themes and methods in tactful ways to present to the reader how harder it is to win and even to lose. ARC from Publisher.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lark Benobi

    The word "mordant" could have been created for just this book. The use of humor and exaggeration to describe some very dark themes is unsettling in all the right ways. It's a disorienting and demanding read which is a fair place to put your novel when you're talking about forced enslavement and racism and violence toward the weak. In some ways though the book as written was a little too demanding for me. I think the narrative voice and timeline of events jumps around far too frenetically for the The word "mordant" could have been created for just this book. The use of humor and exaggeration to describe some very dark themes is unsettling in all the right ways. It's a disorienting and demanding read which is a fair place to put your novel when you're talking about forced enslavement and racism and violence toward the weak. In some ways though the book as written was a little too demanding for me. I think the narrative voice and timeline of events jumps around far too frenetically for the needs of the story and this stylistic choice made me impatient sometimes and less willing to keep going. Even so I was drawn in to this story, and cared about its characters, to the point that I got angry at some of the ways the author chose to lead the story--Hannaham is very mean to characters that I liked, and the characters themselves make some very stupid choices, and when that happened I reacted almost the way I would if reading a new Dickens novel--I wanted these characters to prevail and to make better choices than they did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    3.5 Stars. Delicious Foods begins with Eddie, a young man with freshly severed hands, frantically trying to steer a stolen car from Louisiana to Minnesota. It's a gripping first chapter that sets the stage for the rest of the novel. What exactly is Eddie escaping? How did he lose his hands? From there, we step back quite a bit to see what led Eddie to this situation. We learn that his father died horrifically when Eddie was six years old. His mother Darlene, devastated by the loss of her beloved 3.5 Stars. Delicious Foods begins with Eddie, a young man with freshly severed hands, frantically trying to steer a stolen car from Louisiana to Minnesota. It's a gripping first chapter that sets the stage for the rest of the novel. What exactly is Eddie escaping? How did he lose his hands? From there, we step back quite a bit to see what led Eddie to this situation. We learn that his father died horrifically when Eddie was six years old. His mother Darlene, devastated by the loss of her beloved husband, turned to crack to cope with her grief and trauma. One day, when Eddie was still a child, Darlene disappeared. It turns out she had been lured away with the promise of a good job at a mysterious, nefarious company called Delicious Foods that essentially enslaves black employees, trapping them at the facility to conduct strenuous manual labor in exchange for drugs. Delicious Foods is a southern gothic cultural satire with a distinctly surreal bent to it, and there are a lot of compelling metaphors at play: while modern slavery and unfair labor practices—particularly in the food industry—are current realities, Delicious Foods is just as much a commentary on pre-Civil War chattel slavery and the deep legacy of racial injustice in America. Hannaham's characters are bombarded with modern examples of systemic racism, and these struggles often drive them to desperation. Perhaps the most brilliant thing about this book is that Darlene's chapters are actually narrated by crack cocaine (nicknamed Scotty). It's a strange narrative device, but it totally works—and it really drives home the hold that drug addiction has over people's humanity. As much as I loved Hannaham's ideas and the ingenuity of his narrative approach, I struggled with the pacing of this book. I'm not sure it had to be as long as it was. And as interested as I was in the story, there were few scenes that gripped me quite like the opening. I read this for a book club, and I'm glad I did. There's certainly a lot to discuss about slave labor, systemic racism, addiction, familial loyalty, freedom and forgiveness.

  11. 4 out of 5

    kelly

    [*deep breath*] After I finished this book I lay awake staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, thinking: if this book doesn't win an award this year I don't know what the hell people think good literature is. I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I knew its main theme was the devastating effects of crack cocaine, but had no idea of what kind of ride this book would take me on. The first chapter completely jars you out of any sense of comfort with its brutality; the rest is deep, slow burn of [*deep breath*] After I finished this book I lay awake staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, thinking: if this book doesn't win an award this year I don't know what the hell people think good literature is. I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I knew its main theme was the devastating effects of crack cocaine, but had no idea of what kind of ride this book would take me on. The first chapter completely jars you out of any sense of comfort with its brutality; the rest is deep, slow burn of emotion. This was not a quick read for me. It took a while to get used to the narration of "Scotty," but once I did I found myself reading and re-reading those chapters, just to experience the rhythm and hip-ness of the language once more, and to laugh (inappropriately, of course) at the necessity of its existence in this book. Hannaham's writing here is sheer genius. I kept waiting for Scotty's narration to wane or sound ridiculous, but it never did. At times I had to pause and ask myself if it was really crack "talking" and not just another person in the book. Yes, it was THAT good. I have to admit that the emotion of this book was, at times, too much for me to handle. Young Eddie is eleven years old when he discovers his mother is missing and begins to search, quite literally, through the depths of Hell to find her. My son is also eleven years old, and so many times in the book I found myself so overwhelmed with the image of my own child roaming the streets at night in my absence that I had to metaphorically look away. My feelings for Darlene and the choices she made throughout the novel alternated between full on rage and absolute pity, I was brought to tears too many times to count here. This book will break your heart. Very few books do this to me. There wasn't a single character that wasn't real or a single word that's wasted here. So well written, emotionally gripping. I loved every minute of this book. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    My reaction to the opening scene of this book was “What. The. F**k.” If any book ever hooked me, literally from the very first sentence, it was this one. After the prologue the story went back in time to where it all began but, when it finally caught up again, I was biting my nails and cringing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. The story is told at varying times from the perspectives of Eddie, his mother Darlene, and Scotty (Scotty being the crack-cocaine to which Darlene is addicted). My reaction to the opening scene of this book was “What. The. F**k.” If any book ever hooked me, literally from the very first sentence, it was this one. After the prologue the story went back in time to where it all began but, when it finally caught up again, I was biting my nails and cringing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. The story is told at varying times from the perspectives of Eddie, his mother Darlene, and Scotty (Scotty being the crack-cocaine to which Darlene is addicted). These are three very distinct voices and you can’t mistake one for the other. So what does crack-cocaine have to say for himself? Well, read the book and you will see. Brilliantly done, Hannaham. In a nutshell this story tells of these people who are tricked into signing a bogus contract for work and end up as modern-day slaves for a company called Delicious Foods. They live and work in appalling conditions. Since there’s lots of them and there’s only a few guards, it seems like it should be easy for them to rise up and say “This is bullshit, I’m out.” doesn’t it? Sure, that probably would be the case if they weren’t already addicted to crack and/or alcohol. It’s a prison within a prison and it’s a seriously depressing state of affairs. Quite frankly, it’s frightening how easily something like this could happen and probably is happening somewhere out there. If you can get through the kind of injustices that are happening here, this a very worthy read. I appreciated Darlene’s angle and seeing how the drugs took hold of her life during her weakest moments. Ultimately though, I felt that Eddie was the light at the end of the tunnel that is this story. Through it all he never stopped fighting for his freedom, even when he knew it meant he had to leave his mother behind in order to move forward.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    3.5- stars, really. i finished the read this morning. i liked a lot about the book, but didn't end up loving it overall. i do think it's very creative and brings up some really meaty, important issues. i went into this with the idea of satire in my mind, but that quickly fell away for me as the heavier themes came to the front. (though there is totally compatibility between satire and social critique.) the read was quite visceral for me, and very vivid. hannaham is a great storyteller. (i will 3.5- stars, really. i finished the read this morning. i liked a lot about the book, but didn't end up loving it overall. i do think it's very creative and brings up some really meaty, important issues. i went into this with the idea of satire in my mind, but that quickly fell away for me as the heavier themes came to the front. (though there is totally compatibility between satire and social critique.) the read was quite visceral for me, and very vivid. hannaham is a great storyteller. (i will admit i totally googled 'scotty' as a crack reference, that was a new term for me.) but.... i just was not as sucked into the story as i thought i would be. and i also kept struggling with, (view spoiler)[in the early part of the book, how eddie was getting money and taking care of himself - though he is definitely a capable kid. there was a mention of bumming money from kids and teachers at school, but then when school was out for the summer... what then? also... how did eddie not bleed out from his amputations? (hide spoiler)] (i realize this is maybe nitpicking, but i was totally worried about these aspects of the story.) while nice, i didn't love the (very) end. i do think parts of the novel will stick with me for quite a time. i loved the opening, and each time (view spoiler)[darlene described seeing nat after he was killed - that piece of driftwood - what an image in my mind and what a horrific death. (hide spoiler)] i believe this book to be set from the 1970s through early 2000s ish. (thanks to a disco reference, and a not named reference to kurt cobain's suicide.) at times it felt like a much more current story, and at others, it felt set further back. but this novel is very timely.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Well, crack cocaine was the narrator (a good one too), so that's an automatic three stars right there. Hannaham was extremely inventive with his style in this book and, as unusual as it was, somehow it worked. The plot was unique and captivating. Crackheads who have signed a completely unenforceable contract whereby they agree to a lifetime of servitude picking fruits for Delicious Foods, a mysterious benevolent sounding corporation (but in a creepy way) where the workers are treated like slaves Well, crack cocaine was the narrator (a good one too), so that's an automatic three stars right there. Hannaham was extremely inventive with his style in this book and, as unusual as it was, somehow it worked. The plot was unique and captivating. Crackheads who have signed a completely unenforceable contract whereby they agree to a lifetime of servitude picking fruits for Delicious Foods, a mysterious benevolent sounding corporation (but in a creepy way) where the workers are treated like slaves in exchange for endless hits crack. You just can't loose with that premise. A very high 3 that I'm rounding to 4. One of the most creative plots I've had the pleasure of reading in a while and a social commentary to boot.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan Radovich

    Hannaham ventures into the Southern Gothic territory mastered by Daniel Woodrell with his newest DELICIOUS FOODS and delivers a masterpiece. Darlene, her son Eddie and drugs are the main characters in this tour de force work of love and freedom. Dark. Comic. Haunting. Hannaham's gorgeous prose rings in your mind as you paint the images he brings forth; some gruesome yet all rewarding. This could very well be THE book of 2015 talked about by readers across America. Enslavement, love, freedom... Hannaham ventures into the Southern Gothic territory mastered by Daniel Woodrell with his newest DELICIOUS FOODS and delivers a masterpiece. Darlene, her son Eddie and drugs are the main characters in this tour de force work of love and freedom. Dark. Comic. Haunting. Hannaham's gorgeous prose rings in your mind as you paint the images he brings forth; some gruesome yet all rewarding. This could very well be THE book of 2015 talked about by readers across America. Enslavement, love, freedom... the struggle to overcome and achieve each are played out by Darlene and Eddie. These are two amazing characters. High praise to Hannaham and this glorious piece.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Absolutely superb. If this book does not win awards this year then I'll be damned if I know what they're looking for in a great novel. I'm not sure what I expected when I picked this up but it certainly was not what I got. The first chapter after the prologue was a bit jarring. It took a few pages to get used to the narrative style of "Scotty." I adjusted quickly, however, and it only took a few pages for me to be completely taken in. There was not a single character in the novel who did not Absolutely superb. If this book does not win awards this year then I'll be damned if I know what they're looking for in a great novel. I'm not sure what I expected when I picked this up but it certainly was not what I got. The first chapter after the prologue was a bit jarring. It took a few pages to get used to the narrative style of "Scotty." I adjusted quickly, however, and it only took a few pages for me to be completely taken in. There was not a single character in the novel who did not come to life, even the emotionally grotesque How. My pity for Darlene and Eddie was at times more than I could handle. I was actually brought to tears by certain passages, and it has been a long time since a novel has done that for me. The story is dense, so don't expect to breeze through, but the slow burn is absolutely worth it. When I read book reviews that use cliche words like "haunting" and "poignant" I always roll my eyes. They are words that are so overused to describe books that are meant to tug at the heart of what makes us human, what it means to love and hurt. But I honestly can't think of two better words to describe this novel. I know James Hannaham has written another book and I will be seeking that out, as well as adding him to my list of new favorites. What a great way to start out my new year. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    George

    I wanted to like the book more than I did, but it's still worth reading. An intelligent young couple with an infant child move down to Ovis, Louisiana to help politically organize the black population only to fall victim to a vicious racist attack.The wife lives on but is destroyed emotionally and falls into a chasm of depression, drug abuse and prostituition.only to disappear completely from sight.after having been shanghaied onto a produce farm, Delicious Foods, where all the workers are I wanted to like the book more than I did, but it's still worth reading. An intelligent young couple with an infant child move down to Ovis, Louisiana to help politically organize the black population only to fall victim to a vicious racist attack.The wife lives on but is destroyed emotionally and falls into a chasm of depression, drug abuse and prostituition.only to disappear completely from sight.after having been shanghaied onto a produce farm, Delicious Foods, where all the workers are fellow drug addicts or alcoholics living under slave like conditions. Her 12 year old son, forced to grow up quickly and become self-reliant goes on his own personnal odyssey to find her. It all sounds pretty grim and much of it certainly is, but there is quite a bit of humor that pops up in the telling and plot twists that border on the surreal. The story is told by various narrators, including the mother's drug of choice, a rather interesting device. However, the transitions in the story are rather jarring at times, especially between the opening narrative and the first chapter, which felt very disorienting to me. While there is much of value, the story line bogs down at points, wandering about to little apparent purpose. So, I have mixed feelings about it as a work, but I'm still glad to have read it. You certainly will look at your fruit and vegetables a bit differently when you are forced to consider the actual cost of putting it on your plate.

  18. 5 out of 5

    stacia

    *** Minor spoilers *** I didn't realize the basis for "Delicious Foods" was a real-life events until I was almost finished reading it and when I found out, I wasn't particularly surprised. A farm that pays black employees in drugs and trumps up debt that contractually bars them from leaving the premises isn't too far-out a conceit. By that point in my reading experience, this book had long ceased to be about the titular agricultural enslaver, Delicious Foods. At its core, the novel is about what *** Minor spoilers *** I didn't realize the basis for "Delicious Foods" was a real-life events until I was almost finished reading it and when I found out, I wasn't particularly surprised. A farm that pays black employees in drugs and trumps up debt that contractually bars them from leaving the premises isn't too far-out a conceit. By that point in my reading experience, this book had long ceased to be about the titular agricultural enslaver, Delicious Foods. At its core, the novel is about what it's like to have a drug addict as a mother (and as your only living parent). Eddie, who we follow non-chronologically from early childhood to late 20s(?) is the son of a widow, Darlene, whose husband was murdered by white supremacists. Unable to cope she turns to drugs and much, much worse. It's a well-written book with POV shifts from Eddie to Darlene to "Scotty," the voice of Darlene's drug addiction. If that sounds weird, it isn't. You get used to it pretty early, but I found myself wishing less of the book were about Scotty's "insights" and more about Eddie's. The ending is anticlimactic and pat, given all that came before it. But it's a devastating, powerful read about betrayal and loyalty and how those things cease to have any meaning at all in the face of addiction.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Guy

    Wanted to like this book but also debated on buying it should have listen to gut. There was too much hype around it usually skip a book if overly hyped talking to you gone girl, ice cream star, girl on a train and anything by Stephen King. It was a struggle to get through delicious foods. Didn't care to know what happened

  20. 4 out of 5

    Velma

    Added 1/8/16: FAVORITE READ OF 2016 Added 3/26/15: Approaching the end of the first quarter of the 2015 reading year, and this is still the best book of the 15 I've read so far. ------- I copped an advance copy of James Hannaham's Delicious Foods, which comes out this March, and it is *intense*. To all my squeamish-reader friends out there, the ones who prefer feel-good reading: this ain't for you. But if you like a good dose of the real world, particularly if, like me, you are one lucky sumbitch in Added 1/8/16: FAVORITE READ OF 2016 Added 3/26/15: Approaching the end of the first quarter of the 2015 reading year, and this is still the best book of the 15 I've read so far. ------- I copped an advance copy of James Hannaham's Delicious Foods, which comes out this March, and it is *intense*. To all my squeamish-reader friends out there, the ones who prefer feel-good reading: this ain't for you. But if you like a good dose of the real world, particularly if, like me, you are one lucky sumbitch in the poker-hand-life-dealt-you category, then you might like this book as much as I did. An eye-opener of the orb-popping variety. Delicious Foods is a gritty look at a disturbing swath of contemporary Americana, peeling back the veil that hides a particularly unpleasant practice: debt slavery. I for one believed that peonage was a thing of the past, but after reading this recent article about forced labor on Florida farms, the author's inspiration for this novel, I've been heartily disabused of my ignorance. This is difficult subject matter: not just indentured servitude but also fatal racism, sexual brutality, drug addiction, dismemberment, and death - I told you this isn't for the faint-hearted! Several chapters are narrated by Scotty, The Voice of Crack Cocaine in the head of Darlene, a main character and (yes, you heard me right, one of the narrators is a drug--trippy!), IMO, the heart and soul of Delicious Foods. Scotty describes the out-of-time and out-of-body experience of a crack high this way: "Someday I wanna switch places with y'all just for a while, so before you die you could feel what it like not to have no body. Sweet Jesus it take a whole lot of woriation out your head. First bout doctor bills, and then bout racism and sexism, and most positively, it immediately put a end to all that When Am I Gonna Die bullshit. I told Darlene that the whole problem of humanity is that if you got a body, you gotta have a time and a place. But when y'all got a time and a place, y'all really don't got shit--time don't do nothing but disappear. People and places and seasons and events be changing faster than you could recognize em, let alone remember em or appreciate em. How y'all supposed to live on fast forward all the motherfucking time? Don't ask me. Scotty don't got no idea." That passage struck me as a perfect explication and indictment of the modern human condition. Set predominantly in 1990s-era rural Southern America with much of the action taking place on a commercial farm run by an addled formerly-aristocratic white family that "employs" only down-and-out brown laborers, Delicious Foods is the locavore analog to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle; as many people as turned vegetarian after reading Sinclair's expose of the meat-packing industry in early 20th century Chicago could potentially give up agribusiness-grown and indentured-servant harvested produce for locally-sourced and, presumably, humanely-gathered small farm fruits and vegetables. But it isn't all crack-heads and degrading circumstances, and Hannaham's prose is sublime. Early in the novel, before most of her harrowing storyline gets up a head of steam, there is a description of Darlene's power: "She accepted herself and demanded reciprocation as the price of her esteem." And Hannaham crafts exquisite similes too; one of my favorites? "When you start talking with Sirius B ist's like he tryna stab you with a conversation." I'm pretty sure most of my friends would recognize interactions with me in that image. But even though it hurt to read this, what I was ultimately left with was a "...long-term hopegasm...", what Sherman Alexiecalled a "metaphorical book boner" in his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sometimes the ugliest beginnings lead to the most beautiful and profoundly positive endings. ------- My selection for Task #23 (A book published this year) on the BookRiot #readharder challenge 2015 ------- I discovered this book via the BookRiot Books to Read: Buy, Borrow, Bypass column, the January 19, 2015 edition compiled by Derek Attig

  21. 5 out of 5

    AmberBug com*

    www.shelfnotes.com review Dear Reader, I was not expecting this book to be what it is. I don't know why, but I had a vision in my head of how this novel was before even cracking the spine. I actually audiobook'd this... so all spines are still intact. I have to say though, you must audiobook this one.... if only because the Author, James Hannaham, does a fantastic impression of crack cocaine. Yep, you heard right. Crack cocaine is a main character, and a very strong one indeed. I was so enamoured www.shelfnotes.com review Dear Reader, I was not expecting this book to be what it is. I don't know why, but I had a vision in my head of how this novel was before even cracking the spine. I actually audiobook'd this... so all spines are still intact. I have to say though, you must audiobook this one.... if only because the Author, James Hannaham, does a fantastic impression of crack cocaine. Yep, you heard right. Crack cocaine is a main character, and a very strong one indeed. I was so enamoured by this excellent writing trick, I had friends and family listen to the first crack chapter. Every time I listened, I picked up something I missed. I would come to work feeling "energized" and "pumped up"... but not because I was high on drugs but from how AMAZING James Hannaham writes and reads that character, it makes you feel the buzz. No, it won't get you high... but I dare you to listen to that chapter and NOT be woken up. I'm hard pressed to call this satire, even though I feel hints of it and have heard others call it that. I feel that the darkness looming over everyone is way too heavy to be satirical. Now, crack cocaine... that had humor. Eddie and his mother, that story is just downright sad.... a tragedy. I get a sharp pang thinking about them, I didn't cry but thinking back, it gets me a little emotional. Eddie, that poor boy who lost his father (fire) and then his mother (to drugs and delicious food) and had to find his own way to her. His story is heartwarming, sad and deeply tragic, warranting a book into itself. Eddie's mother, Darlene, holds a tragic story too. Her husband dies in a fire, she can't keep up with bills, she turns to drugs to self medicate and ends up (for lack of a better word) kidnapped by a corrupt company to slave drive them to "earn" their freedom. All this happens early on and we get set up for the "real" story. Think things can't get more tragic than that? Try again. If you plan on reading this, I HIGHLY suggest audiobook format (the Author narrates his book perfectly). I would also plan on listening only during "light" days, this book can pull the darkness in a little and I could feel the storm clouds rumbling... don't make this mistake... it'll bring you down even more. But oh boy, is this book something... so much to discuss here, I could see this being a great contender for the TOB (Tournament of Books) next year (crosses fingers). Happy Reading, AmberBug

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    I will admit that I started out reading the print book but I was just not feeling it. Then I tried the audio book for me and I became enthralled. Kudos to the author who narrates the audio book for making the characters soar. I knew that crack cocaine would be a character but not sure how it would work – but “Scotty” is certainly a character and his point-on-view on addiction and the choice and reasons were both amusing and scary. I found this to be a cunningly unique storyline that uses at times I will admit that I started out reading the print book but I was just not feeling it. Then I tried the audio book for me and I became enthralled. Kudos to the author who narrates the audio book for making the characters soar. I knew that crack cocaine would be a character but not sure how it would work – but “Scotty” is certainly a character and his point-on-view on addiction and the choice and reasons were both amusing and scary. I found this to be a cunningly unique storyline that uses at times ridiculousness and/or parody to look at serious issues in our society that often we push aside if they do not affect us directly. I did like how the parody on the plantation system is used to show how past horrors can be morphed into the present. Themes of grief, greed, hope, choice, freedom, apathy, and survival are illustrated here. There are parts that are disturbing and there are parts that seem unbelievable yet the reader cannot turn away. Sometimes we need to be pushed outside of comfort zones to have our eyes opened to the discrimination and pathos that is too normal for many disadvantaged people.

  23. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    3.5 I struggled with this rating. The book takes a brutal look at the cascading events that can lead to addiction to crack cocaine and the devastating effect addiction has on children and families. The fact that modern-day slavery exists on farms (the Delicious Foods of the title) is sobering and makes you think about where your food comes from. It's a worthwhile book that led to a great book club discussion. But I'm not a book critic. I'm just a reader who rates books according to how much I 3.5 I struggled with this rating. The book takes a brutal look at the cascading events that can lead to addiction to crack cocaine and the devastating effect addiction has on children and families. The fact that modern-day slavery exists on farms (the Delicious Foods of the title) is sobering and makes you think about where your food comes from. It's a worthwhile book that led to a great book club discussion. But I'm not a book critic. I'm just a reader who rates books according to how much I enjoyed the experience. This was a struggle for me to get through, yet I'm glad I read it. How's that for feeling conflicted? I thought the author's device of using crack cocaine, "Scotty", to narrate chapters was clever and effective. These are all weighty important issues. This, along with a documentary I watched, The House I Live In, has led me to re-examine my opinions on poverty, addictions, and the so-called war on drugs. Any book that makes me think and change some pre-conceived ideas and prejudices gets a bump in my rating.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Blurbs on books often describe them as "a tour de force." Heck, Jennifer Egan does it on this one. But guess what? This time, it's true. An extraordinary, inventive, surprising, compelling and masterful novel. Read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    The first night Eddie's mother, Darlene, doesn't return home, he tosses her absence aside as another side-effect to her new drug habit. But after several days, Eddie finds himself wandering his mother's late night haunts, looking for clues to where she's gone. He soon discovers she's been lured to a farm and promised a new start with a budding company, which is far from the truth, as Delicious Foods aims to enslave its workers with low wages, high rent and the haze of drugs. With bleeding stumps The first night Eddie's mother, Darlene, doesn't return home, he tosses her absence aside as another side-effect to her new drug habit. But after several days, Eddie finds himself wandering his mother's late night haunts, looking for clues to where she's gone. He soon discovers she's been lured to a farm and promised a new start with a budding company, which is far from the truth, as Delicious Foods aims to enslave its workers with low wages, high rent and the haze of drugs. With bleeding stumps of hands, James Hannaham warns readers on the first page of his new novel that thye're in for a wild, delirious ride. From there he jumps back and forth in time, from Darlene's relationship with Eddie's father to the horrible conditions at Delicious Foods. But we don't just get the two points of view, as Darlene's mind is clouded by the presence of crack cocaine. Hannaham gives crack its own voice, by making Scotty a narrator for much of the novel, and gets into the workings of addiction without ever creating a caricature. "Hello, Darlene, I said, and my smoke entered her lungs for the first time, gentle like a handshake at first, then my lovely fingers of smoke got in her breath and grabbed it right where Nat's breath had once spent all that time. I'm so glad we met." As a reader used to encountering the dark and gritty, I was shocked to find myself cringing through some of the novel's later scenes. Without a doubt, James Hannaham knows how to elicit a visceral reaction to his words. From start to finish, Delicious Foods is a book that twists preconception and forces readers to pay attention, in the best way possible. More at rivercityreading.com

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I kept hearing buzz about this book, but it kind of got lost in my advance-reading. But I'm glad that I read it in audio because I really enjoyed Hannaham's reading. I want to say first of all that if you do this book in audio you'll hear the first chapter and think, "Why does everyone rate this narrator so highly? It feels really stiff." Just give it another chapter. There's a second narrative voice that works incredibly well and as you go through the juxtaposition of the two narrators will add I kept hearing buzz about this book, but it kind of got lost in my advance-reading. But I'm glad that I read it in audio because I really enjoyed Hannaham's reading. I want to say first of all that if you do this book in audio you'll hear the first chapter and think, "Why does everyone rate this narrator so highly? It feels really stiff." Just give it another chapter. There's a second narrative voice that works incredibly well and as you go through the juxtaposition of the two narrators will add a lot to the experience. This book is incredibly ambitious and it takes on a lot of real-life issues in a way that could end up feeling like an after-school special in the wrong hands. Luckily the material here is handled with grace and finesse and while it loses a little momentum in the quarter, it's very satisfying. I love books that I can't compare to any other books, novels that create a unique reading experience. This is absolutely one of them and would have been on my Best of 2015 list had I read it upon or before release.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    When I first heard the title of this book I thought it must be another celebrity chef memoir....lol. The author, James Hannaham narrates this shocking, heartbreaking and at times humorous novel through the voice of Scotty. I am so naive it took me half the book to figure out who Scotty was. This is the type of book that is impossible to say you liked but you have to admire the writer that conceived the story and penned it. Hannaham is a prodigious talent. I'm predicting this is remarkable enough When I first heard the title of this book I thought it must be another celebrity chef memoir....lol. The author, James Hannaham narrates this shocking, heartbreaking and at times humorous novel through the voice of Scotty. I am so naive it took me half the book to figure out who Scotty was. This is the type of book that is impossible to say you liked but you have to admire the writer that conceived the story and penned it. Hannaham is a prodigious talent. I'm predicting this is remarkable enough to be in this year's Tournament of Books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I liked this almost in spite of itself. The story was fascinating, even if the narration-by-drugs was a little much. I was even willing to forgive the lack of quotation marks because, well, you know, it was narrated by drugs.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Spiegel

    This review originally appeared on The Live Oak Review (https://liveoakreview.net/2017/01/05/...) ------ I waited till the very end of 2016 to read it, though I picked up the paperback in January (it came out in hardback in 2015). I don’t know why. Nestled on my shelf between must-reads and supposed-to-reads, Delicious Foods remained unread throughout the year: missing the havoc of the election, skipping the annual list-making season in which readers formulate their Top Ten Books of 2016. My own This review originally appeared on The Live Oak Review (https://liveoakreview.net/2017/01/05/...) ------ I waited till the very end of 2016 to read it, though I picked up the paperback in January (it came out in hardback in 2015). I don’t know why. Nestled on my shelf between must-reads and supposed-to-reads, Delicious Foods remained unread throughout the year: missing the havoc of the election, skipping the annual list-making season in which readers formulate their Top Ten Books of 2016. My own book-reviewing gig, Snotty Literati, made its list. And, well, Delicious Foods is not on it. It should’ve been. While not necessarily as large in its philosophy or cultural commentary as my 2016 pick for Best Book (which remains my first pick)—Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad—this one was among my favorite novels of the year. Delicious Foods is a great book. It’s an original story with a—dare I say?—suspenseful plot, soulful characters, and amazing language. Start with the cover. Such a lovely cover. I love that cover. But don’t stop there. Hannaham is a great writer! It’s easy to classify this as literary fiction, with its character-centric prose. And it is literary fiction. But we’re almost in the terrain of the literary thriller. Almost. Not quite. The prose is too rich, the plot too secondary. But I have to admit: it’s a page-turner! Despite my non-stop reading habits, it’s still fairly rare for me to be unable to put a book down. As I read this one, I desperately wanted to know what would happen to the two main characters—Darlene and her son, Eddie. There is a mystery at the heart of this story. Crackheads get their habit fed in exchange for slave labor on a farm (Delicious Foods) in a strange, middle-of-nowhere setting that might be Texas and it might be Florida and it might be Louisiana. They work all day, smoke their pipes when they can, and wonder if they’re surrounded by crocodiles. Darlene, widow-turned-prostitute, has dragged her child into this mess. And we’re scared for them, we’re hurt for them, and Eddie’s fate is an ache. This is how the novel begins: “After escaping from the farm, Eddie drove through the night. Sometimes he thought he could feel his phantom fingers brushing against his thighs, but above the wrists he now had nothing. Dark stains covered the terry cloth wrapped around the ends of his wrists; his mother had stanched the bleeding with rubber cables.” And we’re off. The prose is smooth, easy-to-read, vivid. The subject matter is not easy. There are drugs. There is violence. Apparently, there’s a real tale upon which Hannaham based his novel. Check this crazy story out. Hannaham does some extraordinary things. He gives Darlene a heartbreaking past. Her activist husband, a black man, has been burned alive. Besides this subtle introduction of racism in the thematic layout here, the standout feature is the narration. There are times when we’re with Eddie, the drug-free child. There are times when we’re with Darlene, the strung-out mom. And, most notably, most originally, most skillfully, there are times when we’re with Scotty—the drug. Scotty speaks. He speaks of his love for Darlene, of how he doesn’t want to let her go, how enslavement isn’t such a bad thing if Darlene and Scotty get to be together. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the brilliant way that Hannaham moves between the voices of Scotty and multiple limited omniscient, articulate, elegiac voices. Note this passage in which Darlene, a virtual slave, is looking up at the stars—which is risky, lest her slavemasters catch her star-gazing: “It made her think of everything in her own past that had brought her to Delicious and that she wanted to reverse, and how the light from the stars had come from long before the time she had been with her son, even before the time when Nat had been alive. Only then could she faintly accept the romance of it; of human beings, all by themselves on a wet rock in an outpost of a universe whose size they couldn’t comprehend, staring into the heavens to make primitive pictures in the air based on lights that might not even exist anymore.” Contrast that with this limited omniscient narrator who sticks close to Darlene. This passage discusses the family in charge of Delicious Foods: “On top of that shit, the Fusiliers still had a damn good name in Appalousa Parish and far too many sonofabitches up in that area owed em too much shit, based on like Great-Great-Grandpappy Phineas Graham Sextus loaning a sack of grits and a horseshoe to some po’ white fool back in fucking 1843.” And Scotty, too, offers up his own voice: “As [Darlene] got up the strength to heave that damn monster [a watermelon] up to the guy in the school bus, she feeling a intense need to hang with me again, so she could smoke and smoke and smoke until I filled up her empty insides with smoke, and we could do a spiral dance together up into that heavenly ballroom full of drugs way above the planet Earth.” This is Hannaham’s gift, this wondrous moving from voice to voice while telling a fascinating and loathsome but still redemptive story. Put this one on your must-read list for 2017! Jennifer Spiegel is the author of two books, The Freak Chronicles (stories) and Love Slave (a novel). She’s also half of the book-reviewing gig, Snotty Literati.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    A teenage boy whose arms have been lopped off drives a stolen car away from a Louisiana plantation, steering the vehicle with his bloody stumps. As opening scenes go, it certainly grabs your attention. And when you get to to the chapter that is narrated by crack cocaine, you soon realise that this is no ordinary novel. We eventually learn that Eddie is escaping from a place called Delicious Foods, a vast farm which plies its junkie workers with drugs in return for slave labour. He finds his A teenage boy whose arms have been lopped off drives a stolen car away from a Louisiana plantation, steering the vehicle with his bloody stumps. As opening scenes go, it certainly grabs your attention. And when you get to to the chapter that is narrated by crack cocaine, you soon realise that this is no ordinary novel. We eventually learn that Eddie is escaping from a place called Delicious Foods, a vast farm which plies its junkie workers with drugs in return for slave labour. He finds his mother Darlene there after her descent into prostitution and addiction. Once a respected pillar of the community, the loss of her activist husband Nate sends her into a self-destructive spiral. The chapter where she describes her unbearable grief is agonizing and makes her crippling drug habit all the more understandable. When the offer to work on this mysterious farm arrives, Darlene feels like it's her lucky day. She drops everything, including her 11-year-old son, to start a new life. However this dream job quickly proves too good to be true. Horrific working conditions turn it into a waking nightmare. Eddie has not given up on his mother though, even if she has recklessly abandoned him, and he will not rest until they are reunited. This remarkable novel starts off a like a thriller but soon settles into a poignant, engrossing story of a family torn apart by violence. It's funny too - the chapters narrated by Scotty, as Darlene calls her drug, are irresistible. He is a loyal, non-judgmental, sassy best friend to her. It's a neat trick - Scotty is so charming and witty, even I was looking forward to seeing him again. Delicious Foods is a perceptive study of systematic racism, slavery and the stranglehold of addiction by an extremely talented writer.

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