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Jonathan Grant is the award-winning co-author and editor of The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia (University of Georgia Press). Currently, he publishes georgiacollegesblog.com, a news website covering educational issues. His first novel, Chain Gang Elementary, will be available soon.
Grant grew up on a Midwestern farm and graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia with a degree in English. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and bureau chief with The Macon Telegraph. He also served as a Georgia state government spokesman for six years.
He lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife and two children. Actively involved in community affairs, he has served as PTA president at a five-star Georgia School of Excellence, an elected member of his local school council, and as a soccer coach for twelve seasons.
on Jan. 13, 2013 :
Great fun read, but it has been some time since I read it. I do recall how it went, but I forgot to do a review.
(reviewed 9 months after purchase)
on Aug. 17, 2012 :
Grant deserves much credit for bringing the past to life without regurgitating facts and boring the audience in the process. Although a bit lengthy, he keeps the suspense building throughout the entire book. There’s no way to guess how it will end since you never know what each turn of the page will bring. The main character’s plight is just a never-ending series of misfortunate events, all seemingly designed to stop him from righting the wrongs done to others so long ago. Somehow though he finds the wherewithal to keep going, and you can’t help but cheer him on and hope for a “happy ending” after all he’s been through... (Full review here: http://www.readingforpleasure.net/2012/08/03/review-of-jonathan-grants-brambleman/)
(reviewed 51 days after purchase)
on Aug. 17, 2012 :
I thoroughly enjoyed the main character and his interactions with the other characters. The story is inter-woven with the believable and unbelievable so well you feel the emotion of it all. History is not my favorite subject matter, so I bogged down in those chapters. I feel the prologue is not the best representation of this novel and encourage others like myself to push through it. It does pick up in the first chapter and is well worth reading.
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)
on Aug. 13, 2012 :
Got this book from LTMG and found it to be one of the better gets from this group. I enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of it and the delayed determination of the main character to complete his task despite mounting odds against.
I was born in the early 60's and though I wasn't completely aware of it then, I am still stunned thinking back on the amount of discrimination still going on then. I was unaware of the historical happenings that are at the center of this novel but was moved by them.
I do think the supernatural elements made for amusing asides but felt the novel would easily have been as good without them as more of a straight character investigative story. Recommended.
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)
on July 30, 2012 :
Book Info: Genre: Literary Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free ebook copy of this novel from the author through the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. I later received an offer for it through NetGalley, which I accepted.
Synopsis: Down-and-out Atlanta writer Charlie Sherman has no idea what madness awaits him when a mysterious stranger convinces him to finish a dead man's book about a horrific crime that's gone unpunished for decades. What Charlie inherits is an unwieldy manuscript about the mob-driven expulsion of more than 1,000 blacks from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912. During the course of his work, Charlie uncovers a terrible secret involving a Forsyth County land grab. Due to its proximity to Atlanta, the stolen farm is now worth $20 million-and a sale is pending. When he finds the land's rightful owner, Charlie becomes convinced he's been chosen by a Higher Power to wreak justice and vengeance on those who profit from evil. And then things go horribly wrong.
Historical Background: Forsyth County, famous as the birthplace of Hee-Haw's Junior Samples, has existed as an intentionally all-white community bordering the black Mecca of Atlanta since 1912, following one of the 20th century's most violent, racist outrages – including lynching, nightriding, and arson. In 1987, the sleepy community gained notoriety when a small march, led by civil rights firebrand Hosea Williams, was broken up by rock- and bottle-throwing Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and their sympathizers. Bloody but unbowed, Williams returned the next week with 25,000 followers in one of largest civil-rights marches in history. There was talk of reparations. Oprah came. Protests and counter-protests yielded a landmark Supreme Court case on free speech. But most importantly, white people flocked to Forsyth. It became the fastest- growing county in the nation, the richest one in Georgia, and one of the twenty wealthiest in the U.S.
My Thoughts: I was particularly interested in reading this book since all this happened to close to where I live (within about an hour’s drive if the traffic cooperates). While it took place well before I ever arrived on the scene, the attitude of the people around here is very similar, I’m guessing.
I was surprised by the amount of humor put into this book. While it is focused on issues of discrimination and the consequences thereof, as well as the various travails through which Charlie Sherman must pass, it also pokes sly fun at both the conservative and liberal ideals, in a way. Charlie’s thoughts, for instance, about how jumping off a highway overpass is the most “socially irresponsible” way to commit suicide made me laugh. Other comments that amused me included “courthouse arson is a proud Forsyth county tradition,” and one about home ownership being a sure sign of uppitiness in the eyes of the racist members of the community. Then, as a result of all non-whites being driven out of Forsyth County in 1912, it is stated: By 1913, the true nature and scope of Forsyth’s tragedy had become brutally clear. White women, some of them from the finest families, were forced to do their own cooking and cleaning. Bet they never thought about that result! But seriously, the one thing that Grant does not poke fun at is the deadly serious nature of the brutal racism that swept through this area at that time. The descriptions and explanations are sometimes quite brutal, and those with a sensitive nature might want to think strongly about this before they read this book, but enough humor is interspersed into it to keep it bearable.
One thing that confused me is a comment about the trip between Gainseville and Atlanta being 53 miles of mountain roads... there is no mountain between Gainseville and Atlanta, so I’m not sure how there could be mountain roads. Perhaps the author meant country roads. Today, the trip between Gainesville and Atlanta is a fairly straight shot, but I can see where the roads probably were windy before the highway currently there was built. Another thing that made me do some research is the mention of “frantic telephone calls” amongst several people in 1912; I can’t find any evidence to back up my suspicion, but I don’t think telephones were very widespread yet in 1912, so I’m not sure how realistic this situation is.
One of my favorite things about this book is the characters. Grant perfectly caught the complexity of the people of Georgia. Georgia has a really crazy-quilt population – you have the back-country, small-town folks who tend to be very suspicious of outsiders, and old-school racist, having not been taught any differently; and then you have the big city folks, in Atlanta and Athens, especially, that are very liberal. These groups often clash, as can be expected, carrying on such acrimoniously different opinions about how things should be. Always being the sort to get into the middle of things, I think there are good points and bad points to both sides of the argument, and that Truth lies somewhere in the middle. Grant obviously has spent a great deal of time researching the people of this great state, and I feel he did a really good job of bringing it all the life. The characters are all wonderfully developed, unique, and grow (most of them) through the course of the book.
All-in-all, I can highly recommend this excellent story. The book is very long, with multiple points that feel like a denouement, but bear with it – the ending is well worth the trip and literally gave me goosebumps. A very satisfying story, a superbly gratifying read, and one you really don’t want to miss.
(reviewed 90 days after purchase)
on July 19, 2012 :
Another excellent story by Mr. Grant. It took me a while to get through it but it was worth it.
The cast of characters were vast. It was two books in one, which is what it is. By the time Charlie starts the second book, you almost forget there was a first. But it all worked itself out in the end, good or bad, for some.
I know this is probably a bad review but this book was an excellent read. I might have finished it sooner if I had an actual eReader instead of my phone lol.
(reviewed 77 days after purchase)
on July 14, 2012 :
I enjoyed this book very much. It kept me on the edge of my seat while making sure to not make me bored. I am someone who usually does not enjoy reading and this book helped me to enjoy reading. I would definetily recommend Brambleman for anyone who enjoys a good read,
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on July 08, 2012 :
Charlie Sherman is married, a stay at home dad and a writer who suddenly finds himself homeless as the result of a domestic issue with his wife. While considering suicide he meets a strange creature who seems to be electrically charged and, to put it mildly, smells. Since the creature doesn't give his real name, Charlie calls the "supernatural creep" Trouble. As it turns out, Charlie chose the name well. Trouble offers Charlie a job which comes with a place to stay. The job is to complete a book started by Professor Talton who died some time ago. Talton's widow, Kathleen, wants the book published and allows Charlie to live in her basement and gives him an advance. The book, Flight from Forsyth, takes on a life of its own in Charlie's hands and what the book reveals is shocking. Jonathan Grant's novel, Brambleman, is about what Charlie uncovers about the events in Forsyth, a county in Georgia, from the early 1900's. His research leads to yet another story which takes him to the present.
The characters in the book are unforgettable. Kathleen has some dementia but what is even more poignant is her ability to punish people who anger her. She inflicts a fast occurring outbreak of boils-similar to a pox. Dana/Rodika/Arca, who was originally known to Charlie as Dana, presents herself as an art dealer. She is exotic and Charlie is attracted to her. Since much is not as it seems, he is shocked when she is arrested by the FBI during their first date. He learns she has a violent history and asks himself "What kind of a woman would participate in an armed attack on an orphanage?". The rest of the characters include his mother-in-law who hires not one but two assassins to get rid of Charlie. A bus driver who appears when least expected and who also appears as a social worker (a temporary job) when Charlie is being investigated for child abduction. Add the violent and loathsome members of his wife's family and the less than honorable law enforcement officers to the mix and cast is complete.
This book is action packed and deals with sensitive issues including racism. A bit of fantasy is included and it does not distract from the story line. Charlie Sherman is a man of honor whose life took many unexpected turns and Jonathan Grant skillfully guides the reader through his journey. The story is told with wit and wisdom. Mr. Grant is a gifted writer and has crafted a fantastic novel. I highly recommend reading Brambleman.
I received this book free of charge through LibraryThing and I give this review of my own free will.
(reviewed 42 days after purchase)
on June 10, 2012 :
Kathleen Talton was getting old, already suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Her husband, Thurwoood Talton, a retired Georgia State University history professor, died while trying to get his manuscript Flight from Forsyth published. He was hit in the head by a beer bottle throwing youth while marching for for civil rights in Forsyth County. Thurwood died a week later, and Kathleen believed it was caused by the youth who threw the bottle. Kathleen waited many years then decided she needed to have her husband's work completed and published. So she did something she hasn't done in years, she prayed. Not for forgiveness, not for happiness and not many of the things most people pray for. She asked for justice, companionship, vengeance, completion and closure. It was a most interesting prayer!
Charlie Sherman, father of 14 year old Ben and daughter Rebecca (Beck), has been a stay at home dad for a long time. He had opted to stay at home so he could write his book. Prior tho staying home he had been a freelance writer and an editor. His wife Susan, supported his decision because she made more money at her job then he did, and that mattered a lot to her. The problem was, nothing Charlie wrote got published and Susan was sick of him. After a bitter dispute with his wife, his daughter had called the cops because she was afraid. Charlie got his butt kicked out of the house and concluded that Susan had wanted him gone for a long time.
Walking in the rain, extremely upset, Charlie has a George Bailey moment. (George Bailey is a character from classic film It's a Wonderful Life, my all time favorite movie) and gets ready to jump from an overpass. A strange, seemingly random accident below him on the road has him realizing that if he takes his life, he won't see anymore weird stuff. Deciding to think things through a little more, he heads off for some peace, guiet and coffee. Instead he finds Trouble, though who and what he is Charlie's not sure of. And boy does Trouble SMELL!.
When Trouble tells Charlie he has a job for him to do he finds himself agreeing to go and meet Kathleen. She hires him to finish up and publish her husband's manuscript and he can stay at her house in the basement well he does so. Charlie is a little leery but finally agrees and signs a contract. He figures things can't get much weirder, boy is he wrong!
Things aren't just weird anymore, they're Old Testament weird! People were dying; Kathleen's daughter got boils after upsetting her mom, as did a pharmacist; burning buildings and, the kicker for Charlie, the contract he originally signed to complete Kathleen's husband book, the ink had turned to blood and if Charlie tried to get out of it, he paid with his life.
You'd think with all this going on, Charlie would have enough to deal with but no. His wife Susan and the rest of her crazy relatives were all somehow tied in to Charlie's mess with the manuscript. Charlie has to think fast and move faster before something else bad happens. There is way, way more in store for Charlie, his wife Susan, her nutty family, Kathleen and Trouble. What does Trouble really want?And the biggest problem of all is Charlie knows that good and evil are somehow involved in all this, but what side is Charlie actually working for and how will he find out? Will Charlie survive? Will anyone survive?
I found myself reading faster and faster as the story twisted and turned more and more. I really enjoyed the pace and the story in a story aspect that came out of the manuscript that Charlie had to edit. Some of the characters are just that, characters! Good, bad, hicks and politicians, men and women and children all had interesting thoughts and actions. My only real complaint was the length of the novel. While it held my attention all the way through, there were times I thought things could have been said just as well with several less words or pages. All in all though a good albeit long read.
Please note that some people might be offended due to certain events, certain groups including the Klu Klux Klan and certain demeaning and racist remarks depicted in the novel but they are used to show what had actually happened in Forsyth County.
I received this eBook through LibraryThing and was asked for my honest review.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on June 02, 2012 :
There is a lot to talk about today folks, so buckle your seat belts and fasten your helmet. We have Jonathan Grant's Brambleman. I seem to love these books that are hard to sum up in a paragraph. Let's give this a go then, shall we?
Charlie is kicked out of his house by his wife--who was just looking for any excuse, really. Looking like a homeless person wearing goggles (read the book!), a celestial being picks him up and delivers him to the home of Thurwood Talton. He was a scholar who died while working on a book focusing on the history of Forsyth County, Georgia where the largest mass exodus of African-Americans occurred in 1912 following a slew of lynchings that was preceded by the rape and murder of a young white woman by a black man. Odd things happen to Charlie, who is charged with bringing Talton's book to production, not the least of which include attempted murder on his head more than once as he works on this book, and if I told you anymore I would give away so much.
I have listed this book under the category "Zombies and Monsters" because a lot of these characters are exactly that albeit still (mostly) human. I absolutely loved the historical aspect of this novel, particularly tying in the history of Forsyth County. Full disclosure: I grew up on the Forsyth County line and am very familiar with the history of this storied place. You might remember that Oprah paid a visit to the place in 1987, the same year as Hosea Williams's marches in the county to bring international attention to lack of color (and the presence of the KKK and other such things) in the county. If you are not familiar, a simple Google search will catch you up right quick.
As I was saying, I love the integration (pun unintended) of history into this novel. Be forewarned that this book is a commitment--it is lengthy but it is highly addicting. It could easily be split into a trilogy although I am happy that it wasn't as it gave me something meaty into which to sink my teeth. I found the characters to be well-developed and they were half of the story--Charlie married into a Forsyth County family that goes waaaaay back and is a huge part of this story he is destined to write.
And so, in conclusion, this book kept me up at night trying to get to just the next chapter. I mean the next one. Well, maybe one more. You see where this is going? It's an addiction, but a healthy one. Pick up this title on Smashwords or on Amazon. I would highly recommend the Kindle version because that's how I roll.
(reviewed 48 days after purchase)
on May 21, 2012 :
I really enjoyed the book. There are alot of great twists & turns in the story. Enough to make it a very hard to put down book!
(reviewed 16 days after purchase)
on May 11, 2012 :
The book was personally a little too unreal for me with Charlie getting shot at and beat up all the time. I also struggled with the concept of "Trouble" and what he really was. Was he working for God or the Devil? If it was for God, I had a hard time with Trouble calling Romy (a child) a whore.
Otherwise, I liked how the author ended up tying his two stories together even though it seemed to drag on at times.
Even though this is not the normal type of book I read, I found it to be a page turner and stayed up a few nights pretty late because I couldn't put it down. I would recommend it to a friend anytime. Now on to read Chain Gang Elementary.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)
on May 10, 2012 :
This author really puts his main character through a lot in this story. Those are really the best type fo reads, you really don't know how they are going to make it out ok.
Charlie is down on his luck being called a failure in life by his wife and kicked out of the house. A man by the name of Trouble-literally, offers him a deal that sounds too good to be true, finish a book that was left unfinished by a professor.
As Charlie delves deeper into the events that occurred in the book, he focuses on a family farm and historical events that have a not so good past including slavery, civil rights and the especially interesting fact that the story seems to hit a little close to home when he finds a connection to his wife's family.
I think this is a book that fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly would enjoy. The mix of a flawed main character that not only has to work his way through his own problems but also a mystery and putting himself in danger, as well as deeper look into the darker side of America's history.
There is a great mixture of characters and the unraveling of the plot was perfect. It has some uplifting points unveiled through all the darker events that Charlie must find his way through.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)
on March 21, 2012 :
Although very different stories I see similarities between this and JG’s first novel ‘The Chain Gang Elementary’. The protagonists in each book are men in failing marriages who work from home and look after their children while earning considerably less money than each of their ‘power hungry’ ’money loving’ wives; who by the way also share a feeling of boredom and intolerance towards their inadequate husbands. Both books have a conscientious lead character who is far from perfect and a plot that has an anti-racist theme, an issue I feel must be close to the authors heart or locality.
This is a very well written novel with a varied vocabulary and structured prose, clearly Mr. Grant has the skill required to construct a sentence and write a good story with a complicated plot and a diverse set of characters. I was intrigued by ‘Trouble and Romy, they were both characters that I had to think and wonder about, and hadn’t expected to find in this book. overall I found Brambleman to be and interesting and informative read.
Copy supplied for review.
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)