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Geography is not destiny, he concludes . So what contributes to economic inequality? Landes' conjectures, many of them backed by hard-toobtain evidence, are sometimes persuasive and almost always eloquently stated. (SW) Freedomland by Richard Price Broadway, 1998, 546 pages, $25 Richard Price has followed up Clockers with another novel about racial tensions in urban America. Again he has the voices down perfectly : the young black toughs, the black policeman, his Irish counterpart , the ambitious reporter. Set, like Clockers, in Dempsy, New Jersey, Freedomland is the story of a single white mother, Brenda Martin, who claims that her car with her small child strapped inside was hijacked near the "projects." Lorenzo Council, a cop who grew up in those same projects, is assigned to investigate the case. He interviews Brenda, walks her through the crime scene, tries to keep her policeman brother from inflaming the situation and begins to suspect that the "crime" did not happen in the way that she claims. Also investigating is Jesse Haus, a reporter, the daughter of a radical, who faUs into a close relationship with Brenda. EventuaUy, though, she too,becomes suspicious of Brenda 's claims. The investigation takes place against the backdrop of increasing hostility between the projects and the working-class white neighborhood across the park. The projects are ringed with police and reporters, a curfew is put into effect and black leaders try to capitalize on the resulting discontent. The truth of what happened to Brenda's child is more complicated than the reader might guess from the news reports of the Susan Smith case that inspired Price. The plot of Freedomland, in fact, is exceedingly intricate and well conceived. While the novel Clockers revolved around a single powerful emotional issue, the frustration of Uving in the ghetto, Freedomland has more complex emotional tensions: between showing sympathy and trying to discover the truth; between allegiance to one's neighborhood and observance of the law officers' code; between honoring the issue at hand and exploiting it for other, perhaps higher, purposes. And, of course, there's the tragedy of the loss of a child. It's the last issue that gives Price trouble, because it is almost unimaginable . During the scenes with Brenda, the reader keeps hesitating, asking whether this is how a mother who has lost a chUd would act. Even if one assumes that the mother is distraught —or that she is lying—there is stiU that hesitation: Is this what she would say and do? In short, Freedomland is more ambitious than Clockers but not as seamless. Ultimately, though, these are smaU criticisms; Richard Price remains the preeminent naturalistic chronicler of • American urban Ufe. (JS) Reviews by: Elizabeth Knies, Speer Morgan, Willoughby Johnson , Kris Somerville, Kent Hunter, Tina Hall, Evelyn Somers, Steve Weinberg, Jim Steck The Missouri Review · 209 ...


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