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What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African American family that has been gifted with superpowers that are a bit, well, odd. Okay, very odd. For example, Johnny's father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he's been there or not.
In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves the Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration, Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Johnny's in a race against the clock to dig up loot he's stashed all over Florida. His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother's daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.
Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois' famous essay "The Talented Tenth" and fueled by Ladee Hubbard's marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By NMwritergal on 12-20-17
An original and interesting story
I didn't know this book existed until a reviewer at Kirkus Reviews called it one of the most underrated books of the year. Or something like that. Certainly it wasn't on my radar and I listen to 200 books a year. Naturally I went looking for it, because it's my kind of book! I appreciated the author's skill in telling the story--the writing, weaving together so many themes, the structure, etc.--as much as I did the story itself, which got more and more interesting as the book goes on.
It's such a mix: road trip, coming of age for one character and looking back on life for another, the fantastical elements (though this so does not belong in the sci fi category and anyone looking for that should look elsewhere), the civil rights era, being Black in America, family, crime, a bit of a mystery and so on.
Excellent audio performer as well.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Lindsey Choi on 11-09-17
This story feels like it is wandering but when you step back and look at the whole (map/story), it is beautiful. I loved Johnny's tale. I felt sorry for his niece for being bored to death riding around with some ancient man going back and forth digging up treasure. I do think she needed more in the book, but she is 13 dealing with an old man who has no experience with kids. It made sense to me on how that played into Johnny's narrative. I wanted to know more of Reg and Clyde's story (the only part I felt was unsatisfactorily concluded). Meeting The Justice Committee was wonderful and some of the cast felt like real fans who were influenced by their civil rights work. If you lose hope on the book, keep on going. It wraps up quite nicely. Only docking the half star because wandering and the need to view the book from Johnny's skill (fun unique take but took so late in the book to be satisfying I suppose.)
2 of 2 people found this review helpful