James: A Novel

James: A Novel

by Percival Everett

Narrated by Dominic Hoffman

Unabridged — 7 hours, 49 minutes

James: A Novel

James: A Novel

by Percival Everett

Narrated by Dominic Hoffman

Unabridged — 7 hours, 49 minutes

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Notes From Your Bookseller

Flip the script on an American classic as Huck Finn steps to the side and Jim takes center stage in a powerful, and often very funny, story of family, home and freedom.

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ¿ A brilliant, action-packed reimagining of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, both harrowing and darkly humorous, told from the enslaved Jim's point of view

In development as a feature film to be produced by Steven Spielberg ¿ A Best Book of the Year of the Year so Far for 2024: The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, W Magazine, Bustle, LitHub

"Genius"-The Atlantic ¿ "A masterpiece that will help redefine one of the classics of American literature, while also being a major achievement on its own."-Chicago Tribune ¿ "A provocative, enlightening literary work of art."-The Boston Globe ¿ "Everett's most thrilling novel, but also his most soulful."-The New York Times

When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a man in New Orleans, separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father, recently returned to town. As all readers of American literature know, thus begins the dangerous and transcendent journey by raft down the Mississippi River toward the elusive and too-often-unreliable promise of the Free States and beyond.

While many narrative set pieces of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remain in place (floods and storms, stumbling across both unexpected death and unexpected treasure in the myriad stopping points along the river's banks, encountering the scam artists posing as the Duke and Dauphin...), Jim's agency, intelligence and compassion are shown in a radically new light.

Brimming with the electrifying humor and lacerating observations that have made Everett a “literary icon” (Oprah Daily), and one of the most decorated writers of our lifetime, James is destined to be a major publishing event and a cornerstone of twenty-first century American literature.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 12/04/2023

As in his classic novel Erasure, Everett portrays in this ingenious retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a Black man who’s mastered the art of minstrelsy to get what he needs from gullible white people. Many of the same things happen as they do in Twain’s original: Jim escapes from enslavement on a Missouri farm and joins up with Huck, a white boy who’s faked his own death. Huck is fleeing from his abusive father, while Jim is hoping to find a way to free his wife and daughter. The main difference is in the telling. Jim narrates, not Huck, and in so doing he reveals how he employs “slave” talk (“correct incorrect grammar”) when white people can hear, to make them feel safe and superior. Everett also pares down the prose and adds humor in place of sentimentality. When Huck and Jim come upon a band of slave hunters, Huck claims Jim, who’s covered by a tarp, is a white man infected with smallpox (“We keep thinkin’ he gone die, then he just don’t”). Clever additions to the narrative include a tense episode in which Jim is fraudulently sold by a slaver to “Dixie” composer Daniel Decatur Emmett, who has Jim perform in blackface with his singing troupe. Jim’s wrenching odyssey concludes with remarkable revelations, violent showdowns, and insightful meditations on literature and philosophy. Everett has outdone himself. (Mar.)

From the Publisher


“The cult favorite author’s electric new work. . . James completely reimagines one-half of Finn’s famous duo, elevating him from unwitting sidekick to reluctant hero. . . Everett brings that laser-sharp wit to James, creating a radical new American adventure.”
—W Magazine

offers page-turning excitement but also off-kilter philosophical picaresque. . . Gripping, painful, funny, horrifying, this is multi-level entertainment, a consummate performance to the last."
—The Guardian
“Blasted clean of Twain’s characterization, Jim emerges here as a man of great dignity, altruism, and intelligence. . . Clever, soulful, and full of righteous rage, [Jim’s] long-silenced voice resounds through this remarkable novel. Subversive and thrilling, James is destined to become a modern classic.” 
“[A] careful and thought-provoking auditing of Huckleberry Finn. . . [James is] a kind of commentary or midrash, broadening our understanding of an endangered classic by bringing out the tragedy behind the comic facade. And that is no small thing. I expect that James will be spoken of as a repudiation of Huckleberry Finn, but a book like this can only be written in a spirit of engaged devotion. More than a correction, it’s a rescue mission. And maybe this time it will work.” 
—The Wall Street Journal
“Heir to Mark Twain’s satirical vision, Everett turns a boyhood memoir into a neo-fugitive slave narrative thriller. . . Using erasure, Everett has produced a daring emendation. Redacting swaths of Huck Finn, he’s revealed another code: the untranslated story of James’s self-emancipation. . . James is a provocative, enlightening work of literary art.” 
—The Boston Globe
“[Everett is a] prolific genius. . . A literary jukebox. . . If anyone is poised to casually (after all, he has bills) write a masterpiece that not only becomes instant canon but also sets a brush fire to the current ones it stands upon, it’s Everett. And that’s exactly what he’s done with James.” 

"Huck Finn’ Is a Masterpiece. This Retelling Just Might Be, Too."
The New York Times

“[A] sly response to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. . . While The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lampooned American society through the naiveté of its young narrator, James critiques White racism with the sharp insight of a character who’s felt the lash...What’s most striking, ultimately, is the way James both honors and interrogates Huck Finn, along with the nation that reveres it.”
The Washington Post

"Percival Everett [is] our current Great American Novelist. . . [JAMES] is a masterpiece that will help redefine one of the classics of American literature, while also being a major achievement on its own. . . I almost cannot imagine a future where teachers assign The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without also assigning James alongside it. . . Everett is one of the most, if not the most interesting writers working today.”
—The Chicago Tribune

“To call James a retelling would be an injustice. Everett sends Mark Twain’s classic through the looking glass. What emerges is no longer a children’s book, but a blood-soaked historical novel stripped of all ornament. . . Genius.”
The Atlantic

"Once you’ve picked up Everett’s James, a retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you’ll know that only Everett could take on the task of allowing Mark Twain’s character Jim to show what was missing from the original story.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Percival Everett continues his blistering pace of unforgettable fiction with James. . . Everett infuses this well-known story with a refreshingly contemporary jolt of agency, intelligence, and compassion, bringing new life to the character of Jim and the American epic.”
Chicago Review of Books

“Using nuance and vulnerability to emphasize Jim’s humanity, [Everett leaves a] stamp on the literary landscape as he dismantles the stereotypes of the enslaved humans depicted in Twain’s classic. . . Percival Everett has accomplished more than humanizing a marginalized voice. He has, once again, delivered a seminal work of literary reparation.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Everett’s James isn’t out to displace Twain’s book. It’s carrying out a bolder, more ingenuous, and, characteristic of its author, more subversive agenda...Everett endows Jim with greater dimension and nuance than his original creator did. Huckleberry Finn provided Jim with courage, dignity, and virtue. James bestows upon him the greater, if more complicated, privilege of full (if not yet unfettered) humanity."
The New Republic

“Playful and resonant. . . Everett has plenty of derisive fun here, dissecting and subverting damaging stereotypes. . . For a writer who often plays by few rules, Everett has drawn on what he knows best here – that freedom can be won, one word at a time. Add levity and serious intent and you have a novel that's a class act.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Audacious. . . Everett [gives] Jim—who, we learn, prefers to be called James—his agency, letting his intelligence and compassion shine through. James is a poignant if often distressing reintroduction to a beloved character who deserved better.”


“Percival Everett with virtuosic wit presents a spin on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
—Vanity Fair

"More than audacious. With James, Everett has mounted a high-stakes, revisionist raid not just on Twain’s imagination but on ours as a nation. . . [Everett is] a brilliantly sly novelist."
Garden & Gun

"We may not be meeting Jim for the first time, but we’re introduced to him in a bold new way."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"In an astounding riposte, the much-lauded Everett (Dr. No, 2022) rewrites [Huck Finn] as a liberation narrative, told from Jim (or rather James’) point of view...An absolutely essential read."
Booklist (Starred Review)

"The audacious and prolific Everett dives into the very heart of Twain’s epochal odyssey...One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him."
Kirkus (Starred Review)

“Ingenious … Jim’s wrenching odyssey concludes with remarkable revelations, violent showdowns, and insightful meditations on literature and philosophy. Everett has outdone himself.”
Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

"James is funny and horrifying, brilliant and riveting. In telling the story of Jim instead of Huckleberry Finn, Percival Everett delivers a powerful, necessary corrective to both literature and history. I found myself cheering both the writer and his hero. Who should read this book? Every single person in the country.”
—Ann Patchett

"Percival Everett is a giant of American letters, and James is a canon-shatteringly great book. Unforgiving and compassionate, beautiful and brutal, a tragedy and a farce, this brilliant novel rewrites literary history to let us hear the voices it has long suppressed.”
—Hernan Diaz, author of Trust

“This is a brilliant, accessible, and very necessary companion to Huckleberry Finn.”
—Dave Eggers, author of The Eyes and the Impossible

James is a masterpiece. I read it late this summer, and I have already recommended it to enough people to put it on the bestseller lists, in the classrooms, libraries, book clubs and hands in which it so rightly belongs.”
—Francine Prose

“Percival Everett is a genre.” 
—Kiese Laymon

“Pure brilliance. Funny, wise, gracious; this may be Everett's best book yet.”
—Bonnie Garmus
“Percival Everett is an audacious, beguiling American master, whose wild trajectory has reached astonishing highs in the past decade. Now comes James, which enlists and devours not only Mark Twain’s novel but aspects of Melville, Ellison, and even Kafka to makes an irrevocable intervention into the canon. Everett is simply playing this game at a higher level, and it is the most serious game imaginable.”
—Jonathan Lethem

Library Journal

★ 02/01/2024

The rules of engagement for Black people encountering white people are brutally clear in 1830s Missouri, a state with enslavement. Don't ever make a white person think you know something he doesn't, or you'll pay. In this virtuoso reworking of Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it's the enslaved Jim who tells the tale. Heard from Jim's perspective, events look different than they did to Huck, because Jim is living inside a mask: deliberately hiding who and what he is and whatever aspirations he may have. For example, with his wife and family, Jim speaks clearly, even as he teaches his children to only mumble around white people, in order to give them what they like, a moment of correction. As in Twain's original, the action is fast and furious. The characters grab readers' attention and, with Jim and Huck, their hearts too. A twist near the end of the tale changes the nature of Huck and Jim's relationship dramatically. VERDICT Everett (English, Univ. of Southern California), author of The Trees and Erasure, has written an even richer and penetrating Adventures than Twain's already rich masterpiece. It will fly off library shelves.—David Keymer

MARCH 2024 - AudioFile

Dominic Hoffman narrates this reimagining of ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, but this time Jim tells his own story. When Jim learns that he's going to be sold to someone downriver, he flees, leaving behind his wife and daughter. But he soon finds himself tangled up with Huckleberry Finn, a white boy who is always getting into the worst sorts of trouble. Jim is practiced at code-switching, changing his speech when he speaks to white people as a measure of protection. Hoffman's performance captures the varying tone of Jim's dialogue, highlighting the shifts in his vocabulary and rhythm. With its subtlety and attention to detail, Hoffman's narration reinforces Jim's character and narrative arcs as Jim takes back his agency in life. K.D.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2024, Portland, Maine

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2023-12-16
Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as told from the perspective of a more resourceful and contemplative Jim than the one you remember.

This isn’t the first novel to reimagine Twain’s 1885 masterpiece, but the audacious and prolific Everett dives into the very heart of Twain’s epochal odyssey, shifting the central viewpoint from that of the unschooled, often credulous, but basically good-hearted Huck to the more enigmatic and heroic Jim, the Black slave with whom the boy escapes via raft on the Mississippi River. As in the original, the threat of Jim’s being sold “down the river” and separated from his wife and daughter compels him to run away while figuring out what to do next. He's soon joined by Huck, who has faked his own death to get away from an abusive father, ramping up Jim’s panic. “Huck was supposedly murdered and I’d just run away,” Jim thinks. “Who did I think they would suspect of the heinous crime?” That Jim can, as he puts it, “[do] the math” on his predicament suggests how different Everett’s version is from Twain’s. First and foremost, there's the matter of the Black dialect Twain used to depict the speech of Jim and other Black characters—which, for many contemporary readers, hinders their enjoyment of his novel. In Everett’s telling, the dialect is a put-on, a manner of concealment, and a tactic for survival. “White folks expect us to sound a certain way and it can only help if we don’t disappoint them,” Jim explains. He also discloses that, in violation of custom and law, he learned to read the books in Judge Thatcher’s library, including Voltaire and John Locke, both of whom, in dreams and delirium, Jim finds himself debating about human rights and his own humanity. With and without Huck, Jim undergoes dangerous tribulations and hairbreadth escapes in an antebellum wilderness that’s much grimmer and bloodier than Twain’s. There’s also a revelation toward the end that, however stunning to devoted readers of the original, makes perfect sense.

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940159598141
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/19/2024
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 200,053
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