Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Martin Gray is a young Black attorney with a boutique storefront law firm in Queens. After winning a high-profile civil rights case, Martin earns himself an invitation into a secret society made up of elite and affluent Black men from all sorts of industries: media, real estate, finance, and other lawyers.
The men invite Martin on what he believes would be a white-water rafting weekend trip, but in reality is a secret retreat in the middle of nowhere. Wives are barred from joining, as is the use of cell phones on the gorgeous estate known as Forty Acres. Also forbidden: showing kindness or empathy to the white grounds people. To Martin’s dismay, he discovers they are kidnapped and forced to work as slaves. They must address the men as Master.
The mastermind of this modern-day recreation of a reverse antebellum era way of life is Dr. Kasim. He even reinforces the patriarchy of the time. Women are sexual objects at Forty Acres, and the men are supposed to keep their wives happy with money and material things. As I read about the men’s reverence for Dr. Kasim, it reminded me of the hero-worship Malcolm X seemed to have for Elijah Muhammad before Malcolm split from the Nation of Islam in Spike Lee’s film X. Damon Darrell, who was defeated by Martin in court, but still wants him to join the cult-like society, reminds me of Tyler Perry. The high-profile men are polarizing in their business (Damon) and creative (Tyler) choices, but their enormous financial success allows them to pump their money right back into the Black community.
Obviously, the name of the compound and the novel, Forty Acres, is derived from the unfulfilled promise of granting freed slaves forty acres and a mule after the Civil War. After Lincoln’s assassination the promise was rescinded. To this day, Black people still await some form of reparations from the US government for slavery and other heinous acts. To bring up, good ol’ Spike Lee again, his production company is called Forty Acres and Mule. I’ve walked past it a couple of times here in Brooklyn.
Martin, as a protagonist, is troubled and troublesome. There were plenty of times when I scrunched up my face at his thought process and decisions. It’s refreshing, that unlike the other men, he had a conscious, but he did not prioritize well. Forty Acres is indeed a thriller. It’s a page turner because not only could I not always guess what would happen next, but I couldn’t wait to read what happened next. When I was wrong, I’d have an audible reaction by sighing or huffing and rolling my eyes.
I appreciate that the plot was unique and wasn’t the usual cookie cutter type of thriller that involves secret societies, murder, cover-ups, and kidnapping. Late last year it was announced that Jay-Z’s production company is in the works of adapting the novel into a feature film to air on Netflix. I’ll watch.
View all my reviews