Author James McBride‘s new novel, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, starts with the discovery of a long-ago murder—a skeleton and mezuzah at the bottom of a well in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The story follows a Jewish woman, Chona Ludlow, who runs a grocery store in the 1930s neighborhood of Chicken Hill, where Jewish, Black and white immigrants live side by side. Some residents band together to protect one member of their community, a Black orphaned boy who is deaf.
McBride says the inspiration for the book came from the difficult life of his Orthodox Jewish grandmother, who he never knew. His other award-winning titles include Deacon King Kong, The Good Lord Bird, and The Color of Water, his memoir recounting his childhood as the son of a Black father and white Jewish mother. Today, he joins us to talk about the power of community and love.