I just finished reading Forty Acres: A Thriller by Dwayne Alexander Smith, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Martin glared at Damon. A glare that screamed, Where the hell have you brought me?
Damon’s response was a patient smile. “It’s all right, Martin. You’ll see.”
It’s all right? Martin had an urge to leap up and strangle him, but Dr. Kasim reached out and squeezed Martin’s hand. “Brother, please do not allow this decision to cause you any undo stress. Whatever you decide will be perfectly fine.”
The other men nodded.
Martin clenched his jaw and looked the old doctor square in the eye. Martin was about to reject their insane offer flat out when he was startled by a voice behind him.
“Of course, Mr. Grey, if you choose not to accept, we assume that you can be trusted to protect our secret.”
Martin Grey, a successful Black lawyer, is befriended by some of the most powerful Black men in America. They invite him to a weekend getaway filled with fun, brotherhood, and complete disconnection from work and their wives. However, Grey soon finds out that this brotherhood trip is really an invitation to join a secret society devoted to preserving the institution of slavery, but this time Black men are the slave masters. If Grey joins, his future, power, and influence will be limitless. If he refuses—death awaits him.
A random Amazon search led me to Dwayne Alexander Smith’s work, and I’m beyond grateful. Forty Acres was an enjoyable and controversial read, a true page-turner that made me question my moral compass and belief system at times.
Smith is very direct with his writing; his story beats and transitions are smooth, and he doesn’t waste time with too many descriptive fillers. He understands proper pacing in a thriller, which keeps the reader hooked from start to finish. Smith’s point-of-view changes were also brilliantly done. It helped develop characters and prevented stagnation in the story.
My only indifference with the narrative was the identity politics, more so the oversplaining of Blackness. The title, Forty Acres, helps set the initial tone for the book, and the African history highlighted added credibility to the characters and their dialogue. But Smith, at times, over-politicized its arch with his constant Black references. This would’ve been fine in a nonfiction piece, but in a novel, the overuse of identity politics very rarely helps the story. If anything, it tells the reader that the storyline may not be strong enough to stand on its own.
There’s no mistaking that race relations are the anchor points to this narrative; it’s teased in the prologue but stamped during the rising action. And I respect Smith for not placating any feelings or holding back on the trauma connected to chattel slavery. Forty Acres will make you think and disrupt your spirit a little, but that’s necessary for good storytelling.
Until Next Time…