Reviews And Interviews
Historical Fiction by Mike H. Mizrahi
Plot/Idea: Tattered Coat successfully manages to be a murder mystery, a journalistic investigation, and a social commentary on racism all at once. While some transitions to memory read awkwardly on the page, Mizrahi’s excellent foreshadowing propels readers forward throughout the novel.
Prose: Mizrahi’s writing is beautifully voice-driven, featuring a lyrical first-person point of view and gorgeous descriptions of place. The narrative effortlessly switches between multiple character perspectives, smartly depicting events from different viewpoints.
Originality: Tattered Coat is an honest portrayal of the harshness of oppression, covering subjects from the fight for women’s rights to the horrors of racism. While the book is compelling, the narrative follows a similar trajectory to other novels about racially-motivated accusations.
Character Development/Execution: Mizrahi’s strong, powerful characters carry the novel, especially insightful Hickory and determined Anna. The cast showcases the complexity of interracial friendships and the limits of allyship, as characters weigh whether to protect themselves or fight for what’s right.
- Plot/Idea: 7
- Originality: 7
- Prose: 8
- Character/Execution: 8
- Overall: 7.50
Tattered Coat by Mike H. Mizrahi is an enthralling tale of murder and a young protagonist’s struggle to find the courage to speak the truth when an innocent man’s life stands in the balance. Hickory Crabtree is only ten when he unwittingly witnesses the brutal murder of a young white woman. The wrong person, a black musician, is wrongfully accused and faces death. The community is riled up against him and the only one to save him is Hickory. Meanwhile, Anna Gaines returns back to Chattanooga, her hometown, with her marriage in difficulty. She gives Hickory the push he needs to help stop a murderer from escaping with a fortune and the execution of an innocent man. But in a town that is growing in racial tension, do they stand any chance of seeing justice done?
Set in 1905, this novel presents a social and political setting that is historically rich, with strong shades of the Jim Crow ways. The social commentaries are compelling and the multiple narrative perspectives provide not only variety but a suspenseful reading experience while allowing readers to see events as the key characters see them. There is a lot to enjoy in Tattered Coat, starting from the gorgeous prose sprinkled with lively dialogues and detailed descriptions. The attention of the reader is captured from the get-go and the compelling premise puts a young boy in a complicated situation. Hickory is already a bruised boy when readers encounter him, a boy who has suffered much abuse and when he suddenly witnesses a murder, his life takes an unexpected change. The author writes the psyche of this young character with aplomb and explores racial relationships with intelligence. This cleverly plotted and stunningly accomplished novel features strongly resonant themes of racism and the quest for justice in a world where the “color line” still determines social affiliations and the perception of justice. Tattered Coat is a deeply moving tale with unforgettable characters; it is well-paced and utterly suspenseful. You can’t just put it down.
– Christian Fernandez, The Book Commentary
Mike H. Mizrahi’s Tattered Coat is a well-crafted morality play that delivers all the right stuff and ends in a reasonable conclusion. Set in 1905 in the Jim Crow South, it begins with a white boy named Hickory Crabtree who witnesses two killings that happened in one day: A kind woman who is too young to have seen her last sunrise, and her dog, shot for trying to protect its owner. One thing he noticed about the murderer is that he is missing an earlobe. Hickory becomes entangled in the justice system that will pin the crime on an innocent man. Hickory is battling his own demons as he needs to escape from the clutches of his abusive father. Meanwhile, Anna Gaines, a white socialite, returns to her Chattanooga hometown to face her own truths and to leave a legacy of promoting education and tolerance.
I was absorbed by Tattered Coat and found the storyline and characters strong and convincing. It has an empathetic imagining of both its black and white characters. What Mike H. Mizrahi has written here is an interesting example of the way a story about prejudice should work. Tattered Coat raises a lot of questions and you try to answer them because it is a story that encourages you to exercise critical thinking. Hope looms on the horizon, judging from how this story reaches its arc. But it doesn’t stop there as you are left to formulate possibilities for the protagonists. I truly cared for Hickory and Anna–my personal hallmark for identifying very lifelike characters. And I’m even more moved by what happens to them at the end. Once you read this novel, it is likely that you will be affected by it.
– Vincent Dublado, Readers’ Favorite Reviewer
A tense Tennessee drama set in the early 20th century, Tattered Coat by Mike H. Mizrahi is a powerful tale of Southern justice, racism, truth, and courage.
A ten-year-old already scarred by too much trauma and loss, Hickory Crabtree is the only witness to the violent murder of a young white woman in the woods. To save a wrongfully accused black musician from an inevitable lynching, Hickory must find his voice, speak truth to power, and overcome a lifetime of fear. Exploring not only the twisted tools of injustice that define America’s past, this book also strikes a contemporary chord, as profiling and systemic racism remain alive and well in the United States.
Deeply colored by flawless colloquial language, the prose is instantly immersive, while the shifts between multiple perspectives are smooth and distinct for each narrative voice. Seeing this story unfold from so many viewpoints offers a three-dimensional glimpse of Charles Washington’s family and soul, as well as the emotional toll that such tragedies can bring to a community. With a pastoral style reminiscent of Thomas Wolfe, and the multi-generational complexity of Faulkner, Mizrahi draws readers into this story with every line.
Carefully edited for grammatical accuracy and tonal authenticity, this novel tackles some of the hardest truths of American history with grace, nuance, and righteous anger.
– Self-Publishing Review
Mike H. Mizrahi’s latest novel, Tattered Coat, is a brilliant work of historical fiction. Placed in Chattanooga, Tennessee shortly after the turn of the last century, it tells the story of Hickory, a ten-year-old boy who witnesses a rape and murder.
When Charles, a young Black man, is accused of the murder, Hickory knows he is innocent, but before he can tell local authorities what he’s seen, his alcoholic brute of a father forces him into the wilderness, miles from the city. Anna, a white woman from Atlanta who has been a friend of Charles’s family for years, returns to Chattanooga to lend support. (Fans of Mizrahi may recognize her as the protagonist in his earlier, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race.) Anna and Hickory join forces, but their every effort is deflected by the racist forces who run the city.
Mizrahi recreates the community as it existed more than a century ago in lavish detail. Not a scene goes by without an appeal to the senses that puts the reader into the story.
He brings to life historical figures like Arthur Ochs Sulzberger who, I had forgotten, owned the Chattanooga Times before he established the New York Times. Such touches show the attention to detail Mizrahi invested in this novel.
The writing is descriptive and at times lyrical:
How I wish we could retrieve the words we regret, somehow grasp them in midair, and shove them back in our mouths before they wound those we love.
Her long red hair, worn down and curled, make me wonder if Rose’s hair had burned with such fire before nature’s brush colored it.
[My] stomach reminded me that … I owed it a meal.
Such delights pepper the manuscript.
The story is told from multiple, shifting points of view, but the author never loses us. Each voice is important and distinctive. The characters are well designed and authentic.
The plot is carefully constructed, racing to a frightening, yet satisfying conclusion. This book is as close to un-put-downable as anything I’ve read in months. And while the story is set years before our own, the racism it so tellingly depicts makes it relevant to this age.
As a writer whose forthcoming book is also historical fiction with twists and mystery and romance, I appreciated Mizrahi’s skill and learned a great deal from his technique.
Read this book. You will not be disappointed.
– Jim Lewis, Reviewer, Reedsy.com/Discovery
The Unnamed Girl: Amazon.com
Discovery Indie Reader Award Winner: The Unnamed Girl
Inspired by the photo of a young girl found by the real-life Private Thomas W. Timberlake of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, Company G, THE UNNAMED GIRL is a Civil War story of love, loss, and redemption. Though Mike H. Mizrahi’s impetus for writing his novel was spurred by the story of Timberlake’s discovery of an unidentified girl’s photo, the story created in THE UNNAMED GIRL is gleaned entirely from the author’s imagination.
Confederate Private Jonathan Woodard–Woody to his friends–suffers the soul-crushing demons and nightmares with which many of his fellow soldiers from both sides of the battle struggle. On June 9, 1862, after the Battle of Port Republic, Virginia, Woody spies a gleaming object on the ground and, as he draws near, hears the voice of a child compelling him to “find my family” in exchange for peace of mind. As the war drones on, Woody does indeed find peace in the ambrotype of the unidentified girl, and he determines to find her family after the war, a feat that will change the course of his life and have him question everything for which he fought.
Mizrahi deftly weaves a story of the Civil War from both sides of the struggle through a variety of characters. Woody and his childhood friend, Lucas Halverston, fight for the Confederacy as sons of the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, Rebecca Johnston helps with the Underground Railroad from her Southern Ohio farm. As stories of both North and South are revealed in alternating chapters, the characters become set on a course in which their paths will cross, as Woody fulfills what he views as his obligation to find the family of the unnamed girl whose picture has helped him endure the tragedies of war. Both Woody and Rebecca face loss and heartache, but can they find hope as the war comes to an end? Can those who have stood on separate sides of such a divisive issue find common ground and forgiveness?
Readers won’t want to miss this fascinating story of one man’s search for redemption after the horrors of war. THE UNNAMED GIRL is a page-turner filled with all the elements of great storytelling–compelling characters, fast-paced plot, and a satisfying and refreshing resolution.
The Chattanooga Bicycle Race: Amazon.com
The 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards: The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race
Judge’s Comments:“In The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race, a genre novel by Mike H Mizrahi, we are presented with a truly delightful novel that does a good job of dealing with issues of gender in the context of the advancing trends of society, while not losing sight of the fun and grandeur of the big city. Throughout, wisely, all of this is filtered and presented in the context of a simple love story, or at least a coming of age story. The dialogue here is particularly solid, sounding realistic and still readable, aiding the characterization and adding layers of nuance to the proceedings. The chapters are nicely paced, with enough meat to make them satisfying but not so ponderous as to make it difficult to keep track of the narrative as it develops. The title for the novel seems to this reader to be a little long, but upon reflection tonally right on the money, giving readers a glimpse of the plot but also the way that the historical elements will interact. The overall design of the book is professional, with crisp and legible text throughout, while the cover image for the book is a rich and well appointed period piece with stylish colors conveying a clear sense of the overall innocence of the age.” (Thanks Writer’s Digest!)
- Kat Kennedy for IndieReader “Readers won’t want to miss this fascinating story of one man’s search for redemption after the horrors of war”
- Book blogger Meagan Davenport called The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race “a good vacation read that will please fans of Gilbert Morris.”
- The reviewer was “…laughing in parts, crying in parts, and holding my breath.” A wonderful book by “another must read author.” Five Stars!
- Becky J. Miller at “Living Outside the Lines” says The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race is 344 pages of exhilaration. She “hated to turn the lights off.”
- The reviewer recommends this book with 5 stars, and says it’s going on her top reads for 2017! Hats off to Mike Mizrahi for creating a new fan in her.
- “The Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer” about “The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race” come down to this: The cover art has a vintage look, and the reviewer was glued to the book after the first paragraph! Read more.
- Liftuse Publicity: Readers Review Mike’s Book: The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race
Interviews With Mike
- Advice from IRDA Winning Author Mike Mizrahi: “Keep writing, even when it feels like nobody is reading.”
- “3 Plus Your Comunity” in Chattanooga, TN interviews Mike Mizrahi
- Gracefully Yours presents Life Lessons with Mike Mizrahi
- Get To Know Mike H Mizrahi and “Anna Gaines” from The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race
- Liz Tolsma interview with Mike H. Mizrahi
Articles By Mike
- Chattanooga History Column: Even In The City, The ‘Wheel’ Changed Everything (timesfreepress.com, Oct. 1 2017)