The Good Lord Bird

The Good Lord Bird

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.
Publisher: New York, New York : Riverhead Books, 2013
ISBN: 9781594486340
Branch Call Number: F MCBRI-J
Characteristics: 417 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 23, 2018

Avail at NKC

Jul 07, 2017

Both leading characters in this novel, the historical figure John Brown the abolitionist and his fictitious sidekick the story's narrator Onion or rather Henrietta or should I say Henry Shackleford, bring significant amounts of comic and sarcastic quality to this retelling of Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and the events leading up to it. McBride cleverly brings this tragic historical story and time period to life by using humor and southern black vernacular language with its colloquialisms and idioms​.

Find an excellent full review of the book at​

"The Good Lord Bird will be most deeply resonant with those with some connection to the legacy of slavery, either personal or intellectual. If you have studied and read about the institution widely, especially works that depict its violence and dehumanization–Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Robert Hayden’s Middle Passage, Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography, Alex Haley’s Roots–the full force of McBride’s wit and withering commentary will not be lost on you. "

May 25, 2017

I think I learned something about slavery. I'd never heard of John Brown but my husband knew who he was, and now I know ,too.

Nov 18, 2016

McBride falsely presents Frederick Douglass as a child molester.

Jun 01, 2016

A refreshingly humorous piece of historical fiction here.

May 10, 2016

I highly recommend this book! It is a fascinating read with insight into aspects of our history, areas of the country, sexism, race interactions and just plain zaniness of life as imaged by the author. It clearly told a story that sets the stage for the civil war.
The dialect was a bit slow and tedious early on for me, but (as usual) it became common sense in no time.

Apr 20, 2016

This is a great read. The dialogue is refreshing compared to most new fiction. On a deeper level it's fascinating to watch how various African American characters treat one another and interact with one another.

Mar 20, 2015

I wasn't sure how I felt about this book in the beginning. It seemed wordy and a bit repetitive, but I developed a respect for the story and the author as the book continued. This was a crazy and incredible time in history and the legendary John Brown was quite a character. I think the author did a good job capturing the essence of the time and the man. The lingo was very well done.

Nov 25, 2014

The Good Lord Bird is a deliciously subversive perspective on the story of abolitionist John Brown, in the tradition of Mark Twain and yes, filmmaker Mel Brooks! This book is no respecter of halos, even when attached to iconic figures like Frederick Douglass (who sports a 'busted' halo in McBride's retelling). John Brown is an obsessive renegade and bible quoting fundamentalist, yet there is an otherworldly honesty in his red hot mission to destroy slavery. Mcbride has created real, flawed human beings, not caricatures. The result is a very funny, very moving story with a touch of the sublime.

Nov 06, 2014

"He was like everybody in war. He believed God was on his side. Everybody got God on their side in war. Problem is, God ain't telling nobody who He's for."
James McBride's National Book Award winning novel tells the story of John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry from the perspective of a young, freed slave who is mistaken for a girl and spends much of the novel dressed as one. Told from his perspective, it is simultaneously comic and brutal, with echoes of "Huck Finn" and "Little Big Man." McBride masterfully conjures up the violent past while touching on issues (race, identity, fanaticism) that are still with us. Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Jeb Stuart all make appearances. Two other novels about Brown worth checking out: Russell Banks's "Cloudsplitter" and G.M. Fraser's "Flashman and the Angel of Light."

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Jun 02, 2016

"I was born a colored man and don't you forget it. But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years."


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at TPL

To Top