Long Division contains two interwoven stories. In the first, it's 2013: After an on-stage meltdown during a nationally televised quiz contest, fourteen-year-old Citoyen "City" Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube celebrity. The next day, he's sent to stay with his grandmother in the small coastal community of Melahatchie, where a young girl named Baize Shephard has recently disappeared.
Before leaving, City is given a strange book without an author called Long Division. He learns that one of the book's main characters is also named City Coldson - but Long Division is set in 1985. This 1985 City, along with his friend and love-object, Shalaya Crump, discovers a way to travel into the future and steals a laptop and cell phone from an orphaned teenage rapper called…Baize Shephard.
They ultimately take these with them all the way back to 1964, to help another time-traveler they meet protect his family from the Klan.
City's two stories ultimately converge in the mysterious work shed behind his grandmother's, where he discovers the key to Baize's disappearance.
©2013 Kiese Laymon (P)2013 Tantor
"Laymon's debut novel is an ambitious mix of contemporary southern gothic with Murakamiesque magical realism." (Booklist)
I was really looking forward to this book after the chapter in Laymon’s essay collection about the trials he had to go through to get it published. It’s about a black boy in Mississippi who finds a book that tells a parallel story about a black boy with the same name (and friends and family) but in a different year. There’s a hole in the woods that allows time travel, the Klan, family secrets revealed, and a few interesting discussions of race (and a bit about gender). (There’s a black man who gets killed by the Klan after making a come-on to a 16-year-old white girl. Of course, killing him was an evil but a female character notes that it’s messed up for a grown man to be talking that way to a girl.) Anyway, by the end, I was frustrated with it and I realized why: It’s just like when someone goes on and on and on about a crazy dream where all these fantastical and nonsensical things happen — it’s interesting to them but not to anybody else.
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