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On the Ropes: A Tale of the ’60s

by Neil J. Smith

Neil J. Smith delivers a powerful tale that lingers with you in “On the Ropes.” A realistic view of the sixties, the story follows the trials and tribulations of aspiring Olympic boxer Percival Jones as he deals with the aftermath of significant events in his life. From hearing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to dealing with issues regarding the mother of his son, the author offers a no-holds-barred approach to a black man’s experience in America.

The book is full of distinct imagery combined with Smith’s mastery of words. He evokes a pain that many people can relate to: From constantly proving your worth to having your dreams disappear in a flash. The collective experience of being black in America is as unique and relevant as it is today. While the story takes place in the sixties, there is no doubt that readers would find the life of Percival Jones as relatable as today.

Apart from the author’s mastery of words, his realistic yet humane depiction of the characters featured in the story should also be applauded.

Whether you love or hate them, Smith could delve deep into the motivations of such characters with sympathy and finesse—a talent that only a few writers can achieve. He doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities, but he doesn’t dwell on the hopelessness of the situations entirely either. Like a boxing expert, the author delivers each line with precision, tact, and power. Every line is delivered deliberately, and like any great sportsman, he makes it look effortless.

In summary, I would suggest this read to people looking to expand their reading shelves. Regardless of your age or what generation you came from, “On the Ropes” offers a complete package of everything a modern classic should have.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 2, 2023

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