3 out of 4 stars
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The plot of The Bliss of Ignorance, by Ray Filasky, is set in the United States in the modern-day. However, the country looks incredibly different than it does in reality. Due to race tensions, its citizens of color have been segregated into their own territory. New Haven is made up of land formerly belonging to the states of Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. All people of color have to live within these boundaries. Communication from inside New Haven to the outside world is very limited. Mixed-race families are separated. In the midst of this separation, we meet Tee and Emma Haskins. Tee is a white preacher who has married an intelligent, African-American college professor. Emma and their adult son, Dylan, must move to New Haven and find a way to continue life without Tee.
Meanwhile, a resistance group chats on the deep, dark web. They are plotting to find a way to put an end to the forced segregation. Through their undercover work, it is discovered that everything is not what it seems. Some powerful people have been working to sway elections and votes. They have been deceptively instigating violent riots at peaceful protests so that the country believes that a race problem exists. As this resistance group searches for a way to fight tyranny, their lives and the lives of their loved ones are put in grave danger. Will these brave people find a way for justice to prevail? Will Emma and Dylan ever be reunited with Tee?
I think this novel could be masterful with another round of editing. Beyond the numerous grammatical errors, there are places that the writing could be changed to be more realistic. The chatroom conversations, in particular, felt forced and contrived. The moments that I found myself doubting the plausibility of the story were my least favorite parts.
On the other hand, this book serves as a relevant warning against the dangers of racism. At a time when our nation’s politics have been divisive, it is important to be warned against mindlessly jumping on a bandwagon of hate. A policy of forced segregation in this country in present-day may seem far-fetched. However, it is all too easy to make some group a scapegoat for our nation’s problems. Through that synergy of bitterness, evil policies can be made to look good. The story of Emma and Tee reminds us that the people affected by a political policy are real people. When we dehumanize others based on any criteria, we will inevitably treat them in an inhumane way. The author’s courage in addressing these touchy themes is what I enjoyed most about this novel.
I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. Due to the grammar issues and the parts of the plot that needed to be more realistic, I deducted one star. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading dystopias or relevant political topics in a fictional tale. The reader should know, this book includes some profane language and an explicit sexual scene.
The Bliss of Ignorance
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