From one of America’s most beloved storytellers—a profound novel about belief, betrayal, and the transformation of one corner of the country.
In 1971, a property speculator named Harley Mann begins recording his life story onto a reel-to-reel machine. Reflecting on his childhood in the early twentieth century, Harley recounts that after his father’s sudden death, his family migrated down to Florida’s swamplands—mere miles away from what would become Disney World—to join a community of Shakers.
Led by Elder John, a generous man with a mysterious past, the colony devoted itself to labor, faith, and charity, rejecting all temptations that lay beyond the property. Though this way of life initially saved Harley and his family from complete ruin, when Harley began falling in love with Sadie Pratt, a consumptive patient living on the grounds, his loyalty to the Shakers and their conservative worldview grew strained and, ultimately, broke. As Harley dictates his story across more than half a century—meditating on youth, Florida’s everchanging landscape, and the search for an American utopia—the truth about Sadie, Elder John, and the Shakers comes to light, clarifying the past and present alike.
A dazzling tapestry of love and faith, memory and imagination, The Magic Kingdom questions what it means to look back and accept one’s place in history. With an expert eye and stunning vision, Russell Banks delivers a wholly captivating portrait of a man navigating Americana and the passage of time.
About the Author
RUSSELL BANKS, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.
“Russell Banks’s new novel is eerily timely. Can what’s gone wrong in the past offer keys to the future? The Magic Kingdom confronts our longings for Paradise; also the inner serpents that are to be found in all such enchanted gardens.”
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments, via Twitter
“As always happens when I read Russell Banks’s work, I couldn’t put it down. That is the Banks magic—the propulsive force of the narrative, even as his stories twist and turn through various diversions, asides, and introspections—for the narrative voice is always constant, and that constancy never fails to hold the reader in its grip. Banks is still working at full blast, creating work as good as anything he has ever done and—is it possible?—perhaps even better.”
—Paul Auster, author of 4 3 2 1
“Banks’s penetrating dissection of the American dream and its frequently unfulfilled promises is consistently profound. This is his best work in some time.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred