Book of the Month: Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (2021)

Critical Evaluation

“Just over a third of the way into Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, the narrator describes the wood-burning heater in his childhood home as having “more tricks than a carful of monkeys.” One could say the same about Mott’s wonderful new novel itself.

Hell of a Book is many things: part send-up of the publishing industry, part road-trip comedy, part metafictional sleight of hand. But at its core, the novel is a harrowing and powerful meditation on racial injustice and its effects on the human psyche.”

Schwartz, Adam. Washington Independent Review of Books. July 20, 2021.”Hell of a Book: A Novel. ‘A wry, wrenching tale of racial trauma in America.’ ”

First Excerpt

“You will forget him.” He tried to find the words to say, “This boy is only the first of many that you will meet over your life. They will stack upon one another, week by week. You’ll try to keep them in your head but, eventually, you’ll become too full and they’ll spill out and be left behind. And then, one day, you’ll grow older and you’ll realize that you’ve forgotten his name—the name of the first dead Black boy that you promised yourself you wouldn’t forget—and you’ll hate yourself. You’ll hate your memory. You’ll hate the world. You’ll hate the way you’ve failed to stop the flow of dead bodies that have piled up in your mind. You’ll try to fix it, and fail, and you’ll drown in rage. You’ll turn on yourself for not fixing everything and you’ll drown in sadness. And you’ll do it over, and over, and over again for years and, one day, you’ll have a son and you’ll see him staring down the same road that you’ve been on and you’ll want to say something that fixes him, something that saves him from it all . . . and you won’t know what to say.”

Second Excerpt

“All you really want is for the people around you to be safe. And there’s nobody in this world that you want safety for more than your children. So when you can’t give that to them, it swells up around your life. It swallows you up. You get afraid to let them leave the house because the monster of the world might come along and swallow them up. And the thing is that, eventually, that’s exactly what happens. Every child like you in this country has been swallowed up by the monster since before they were even born. And every Black parent in the history of this country has tried to stop that monster from swallowing them up and has failed at it. And every day they live with that.”