• The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

  • A Novel
  • By: James McBride
  • Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
  • Length: 12 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (4,430 ratings)

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The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store  By  cover art

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

By: James McBride
Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
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Publisher's summary

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A
NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY
NPR/FRESH AIR, WASHINGTON POST, THE NEW YORKER, AND TIME MAGAZINE

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2023

“A murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel . . . Charming, smart, heart-blistering, and heart-healing.”—Danez Smith, The New York Times Book Review

“We all need—we all deserve—this vibrant, love-affirming novel that bounds over any difference that claims to separate us.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

From James McBride, author of the bestselling Oprah’s Book Club pick Deacon King Kong and the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, a novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them

In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.

Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.

©2023 James McBride (P)2023 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“With this story, McBride brilliantly captures a rapidly changing country, as seen through the eyes of the recently arrived and the formerly enslaved . . . And through this evocation, McBride offers us a thorough reminder: Against seemingly impossible odds, even in the midst of humanity’s most wicked designs, love, community and action can save us.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Classic McBride: He doesn’t shy away from bold statements about the national catastrophes of race and xenophobia, and he always gives us a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. The sugar is McBride’s spitfire dialogue and murder-mystery-worthy plot machinations; his characters’ big personalities and bigger storylines; his wisecracking, fast-talking humor; and prose so agile and exuberant that reading him is like being at a jazz jam session. . . . Reading McBride just feels good—we are comforted and entertained, and braced for the hard lessons he also delivers.”—The Atlantic

“McBride . . . would never advance any of his books as candidates for the Great American Novel. . . . I’d like to make a case, though, for Deacon King Kong and, now, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store as better contenders for the 21st-century GAN than many other, more vaunted specimens. . . . In the words of Walt Whitman (an American writer McBride often brings to mind), they contain multitudes.”—Slate

What listeners say about The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

Average customer ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Multiple Stories Obfuscate Narrative

I respect Mr McBrides writing and voice, but I got lost in the weeds several times when I had to endure long, winding introductions to characters that would ultimately serve a small part in the ending. Several chapters felt like short stories forced into the service of this overall narrative. I will try to avoid spoiler alerts, but in essence we got very little of a story about Jewish people adopting a black child and instead got several short stories and an ending full of the same old retributive violence—the baddest bad guys got what was coming to them, happily ever after, the end. With Mr. McBrides gifts as a storyteller I would have loved a far more nuanced story. My 2cents…

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43 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Not sure why this has such good reviews

Very slow development. Parts of the story get exciting and then nothing….more dribble. Lots of detail about characters that do nothing except talk about nothing to do with an outcome. I can’t finish. No more from this author for me.

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24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Moving story and great narrator

The author James McBride has given us a gift with The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store and the narrator Dominic Hoffman is an excellent match.

McBride succeeded in making me laugh, cry, cringe, connect deeper with my living and deceased relatives and wider community, cry some more, and then think and feel deeply about this book well after I had finished it.

Hoffman narrated this so well that I often lost all perception that there was a narrator; it felt more like the characters themselves were telling their own story, which made it all the more emotionally moving.

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24 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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What a unique and fascinating story

It took me about two hours worth of this audible book to really figure out the story, and how the author was developing the characters. When you read it just be patient because it will all come together at the end, and a fabulous ending.

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19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I wrote a review six days ago

I lost power, my phone died when I was trying to finish the review I will just say this it’s not only extremely moving, but I will never eat another piece of the sweet potato pie without having this book in mind to remind me to read it again, and again, and again. I never got to turn my review around from where I began to where I am now finishing… James McBride is one of the best authors I have ever read. His book, the color of water to the good Lord Bird right onto this one he’s a one of a kind author and he really is writing a masterpiece with this book and all the different characters and all the different storylines that all combined into one story I just cannot explain how masterfully this book was put together. Again I love sweet potato pie. 🥧🥧🥰

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19 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Alert: rape of disabled child

This was a very good book - innovative plot line, and rich characters. But I was shocked to listen to a disabled child being raped. It’s not necessary to be explicit to get this across. It’s triggering to people who have been subjected to abuse, and it’s titillating to pedophiles.

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16 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • SZ
  • 08-31-23

Letdown

I’m a James McBride fan, but this work is not in the league of The Good Lord Bird (outstanding), Kill ‘‘em and Leave (a close second) and Deacon King Kong (a respectable third). The thin, confusing plot and the many superfluous characters — going nowhere — made The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store an ordeal to finish.

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14 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Emotionally overwhelming and superb

This may be the first james mcbride book i've listened to But he's completely won me over! His creation of the community felt so real! The symbolism was just gorgeous, and the novel was weaved together as only a master of structure could! just wow!

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11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Read or listen to this book!

I loved everything about this book. The narrator was wonderful, the story was intriguing and compelling, the themes were important, the writing superb! It is humorous and poignant and the unlikely seems so realistic. I think it's my book of the year.

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9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant writing, perfect narration

A must read/listen. McBride’s writing is truly stunning, as always. Dominic Hoffman is a gifted narrator.

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7 people found this helpful