Downtown Blog

National Book Award Winner for Feb. Book Club

Concord Community Book Club selects Hell of a Book as February’s book club pick.

Jason Mott is a North Carolina-based writer with many accolades. He’s the winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, nominee for the Purshcart Prize, nominee for the Carnegie Medals for Excellence, and most recently, he has been named winner of the National Book award. His debut novel, The Returned, was adapted for television and aired on ABC under the title Resurrection.

His newest novel, Hell of a Book, was a Jenna Bush Hager “Read with Jenna” Book Club pick. Hell of a Book is a satirical take on a nameless author’s cross-country tour for his new novel, also titled Hell of a Book. As the author confronts the politics of publishing and marketing his novel, he must answer people who ask why he chose not to represent “the Black condition.” On the other hand, he must answer to his media advisor, who wants him to write something more light.

Meanwhile, the narrator begins to form an unlikely friendship with a young Black boy–a shadowlike, ever-present 10-year-old he called The Kid–as violence erupts around the country. Braided with the author’s narrative are chapters following the life of a boy referred to as Soot. Uncomfortable in his own skin, and bullied by his peers, Soot feels unwanted and unsafe in the world. When his father is murdered outside of their home, Soot finds safety in stories. Eventually, the narratives from both the narrator’s and Soot’s stories begin to merge.

Soon, the novel becomes a broader meditation on imaginary friends; mental illness; alcoholism; and deep, deep grief. The narrator is unreliable and not always the most likeable character. These aspects blur the line between imagination and reality.

Grab a copy at Goldberry Books in Downtown Concord.

About the Book

In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

As these characters’ stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.

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