Book Review: The Third Verse
by Jerry Canada
Publication Date: Jun 19, 2021
List Price: $18.65
Format: Paperback, 328 pages
Imprint: Soncoast Publishing
Publisher: Soncoast Publishing
Parent Company: Soncoast Publishing
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Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
America is a glorious idea founded on democracy and equality for all. When Jerry Canada, a former trial lawyer and New Yorker, chooses one of the most famous quotes by President Abraham Lincoln, he sets the basic premise of his controversial novel, The Third Verse. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” wrote Lincoln. The novel reveals the consequences of race hate and societal divisiveness which can undermine the unity and future of the American republic.
Canada’s premise of institutional racism causing the collapse of democracy fuels the book with President Lawrence Edison and his Chief of Staff Anthony Marks dueling with China and his plan to support the Black resistance. China sides with the African American population in their quest for human rights against the powerful might of white backlash. The Chinese officials offer that community a chance of equality by switching with whites and enjoying the good life for once.
Without overheated drama and theatrics, Canada opens the novel with an invasion by Chinese soldiers occupying New York City and other major cities in the Northeast. Life, under the grip of the invaders, soon returns to normal with some limitations and restrictions. The Chinese shrewdly announce another political gambit, Switching Day, with Blacks switching homes and lives with whites. They seize on the reality of Blacks angry of lost opportunities and mobility, offering the voiceless and downtrodden to sample an existence of promise and possibility.
Chinese intelligence points some bitter truths in the American myth: “The American Negro is beginning to show strength. However, the killing of their leaders, first revolutionary Malcolm X, and just recently Martin Luther King, is proving to be a dividing line between White and Negro in America. Negroes blame the government. The cities of the country are set afire by angry Negroes. Whites appear to be concerned about the growing power of the Negro and are starting to make some concessions, giving the Negro more education, civil rights and employment opportunities. Yet the two sides remain divided and ever wary of each other.” Like fictional craftsmen Herman Wouk and Leon Uris, with their panoramic sweep of characters and situations, Canada allows the readers to focus on people, black and white, from all walks of life. He probes what their behavior will be when Switching Day comes. His narrative focuses his audience’s attention in brief, distinct scenes loaded with emotional fireworks and explosive action.
“We are live and here are the first group of Switchers coming out of the station,” an announcer says on the scene. She stayed silent as a mass of African Americans, carrying suitcases, backpacks and even pets, exited the station, some running, others trying to decide which way to go, up or downtown. Many had children with them, in tow or in strollers. It was like an exodus. This scene played out in many of the choice neighborhoods.”
Probably the most interesting work in Canada’s depiction of the two main characters, Edison and Marks, their friendship and their approach to the heated political situation. The author follows Marks and Edison through school, educational achievement, and into higher office. They agree on everything, more or less, except how to deal with the Chinese threat. The Chinese want to create a nation within America, granting blacks Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Also, China wants to collect on the debt America owes it. They consider their west rival: “America is weak, arrogant, and past its time.” The military exerts its aggressive influence, seizing ships from other lands and the U.S. decides to put a blockade off the Chinese coast. This complicated action places Edison and Marks at odds while the battle grows into an international flashpoint.
The conclusion of the novel is similar to the action-packed contents of combat professionals like Tom Clancy and Cornelius Ryan. Very brief and loaded with conflict. Its premise mirrors the political relationship of America and China, and the domestic woes of this country makes this book a fast-paced thriller.