Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: 'The Right Mistake' by Walter Mosley

"Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." -- 2 Kings 22:1-2 (NKJV)

We all like to play the blame game. Whenever something happens we don't like, well, just blame someone else.

There's only one problem with that approach: Nothing is ever improved. Even if we make mistakes, it's good to take personal responsibility and do our best to do the right thing. If everyone did that, we would all be amazed at the improvements.

The Right Mistake looks deeply into that premise through the battered body and soul of Socrates Fortlow, former felon, now philosopher of life. If you have missed the earlier books that include this character (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog), you should go back and read those first. They will put the character and his unique perspective into a better frame than just reading this book on its own.

This isn't a novel. It's more like a series of short stories in a chronological sequence that allows you to imagine the rest of a story line. It's a lot like the approach the impressionist painters used to let you finish the "big picture" in your head. The spaces between the short stories frame the issues nicely, and you'll definitely have a reaction to the social commentary as well as the personal philosophies expressed here.

I believe the book also serves a redemptive purpose for Walter Mosley in helping him to transcend genre into making more fundamental statements than fiction usually permits.

I found myself drawn deeply into the story, identifying with Socrates Fortlow (even though on the surface we have little in common), and being curious about where Mr. Mosley was taking me. It was a worthwhile ride. Be sure not to miss it!

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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