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Close to the Bone

by Jake Lamar

(Crown 1999) 

Dr. Emmet Mercy, self-help guru and author of Blactualization : Everyday Strategies for Reconnecting with Your Authentic African-American Self, is obsessed with gaining fame and fortune -- at any cost. Meanwhile, his wife LaTonya shares a secret, sordid history with Hal.

The story moves from New York to Paris, from Amsterdam to Craven, Delaware, finally culminating on the eve of one of the defining events of our time: the verdict in O.J. Simpson's criminal trial. Using the public spectacle of the celebrated murder case in counterpoint to the private lives of his characters, Jake Lamar -- one of America's most original writers -- paints a stunning portrait of a society grappling with fundamental problems of race and sex, identity and justice.

In Close to the Bone, author Jake Lamar has created a riveting novel of three young couples whose lives intersect in curious ways. And the question that torments all of them: What is a black man?

Hal Hardaway is a young black executive, struggling to get along with Corky Winterset, his white girfriend, who holds him in "constant suspicion of machismo." Walker Dupree, Hal's former roomate, is wrestling with his mixed racial heritage while trying to avoid marriage to his persistent black girlfriend, Sadie Broom.


"Lamar's smart novel features vibrant, sympathetic characters and dialogue that's laugh out loud funny."


"Lamar renders the story with a keen sense of irony, seamlessly straddling past and present. No one escapes his searing wit."

--Seattle Times

"While Close to the Bone dives into the complexities of late twentieth century race relations, it's not a sermon masquerading as a novel. Accessible and engaging, it has a strong narrative momentum punctuated by edgy humor."

--Houston Chronicle

"Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, Lamar cuts through the controversies surrounding the African American experience."

--Library Journal

"Undoubtedly informed by his own experience as an expatriate in Paris, Lamar wonders if the American pursuit of happiness ultimately leads to discontent. Although at the end of the novel the characters seem no closer to answering this question than when it began, they also seem so real that the reader wonders how their lives will eventually resolve it."

--Washington Post