The novel Delicious Foods opens with Eddie, a seventeen year old African-American man whose hands have been recently amputated, steering a car with his gauze-covered stumps. He’s trying to find his aunt, and his quest takes him from the south all the way up to Minnesota. What exactly happened to him and Darlene, his mother, takes up the rest of the book. It’s a shocking opening that definitely drew me in. Author James Hannaham wastes no time getting his story going, and much of it reads more like a mystery or thriller than the literary fiction designation the book has been given.
It turns out that Darlene, Eddie’s mother, is really the main character. Hannaham weaves the book’s various plots around the events that led up to Eddie losing his hands. Darlene meets Nat, a leader in the African-American community, in college. Later in the book her life spirals out of control due to a drug problem, mainly crack. When she has just about bottomed out, she gets tricked into going to a rural farm called Delicious Foods. While the farm claims to be legitimate, it really traps Darlene and the farm’s other employees in a situation close to slavery.
Even with the book’s heavy themes such as racism and the devastating effects of drugs on communities, Delicious Foods manages to still be, if not a super fun read, at least a memorable, well-paced one with oodles of great characters. Hannaham even has chapters of the book narrated by the crack that Darlene and many of the other characters can’t break free from. It’s hard to explain how these crack-narrated sections work but somehow they do. Delicious Foods would be a great choice for a book club wanting to read something a little heavier but not at all dull or anyone interested in a unique and adventurous novel.